I. Building Canada's Information Society
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Government Leadership in Using ICTs
Canada seeks to be a model in using the Internet to provide government services. To this end, the Government On-Line (GOL) initiative aims to use ICTs to enhance Canadians' access to improved and integrated services, anytime, anywhere and in the official language of their choice by 2005.
Although GOL is still in the middle of its mandate, proof of its success can be seen in the fact that, for the past three years, the international consulting organization Accenture has ranked Canada as the world leader in e-government.
E-mail has changed the way Canadians communicate with one another, and has made an enormous difference in their ability to participate in the affairs of their community. This is expected to grow: almost 50 percent of Canadians expect to use the Internet or e-mail as the chief means of interacting with the government in the future.
The result is a change in the way politicians and citizens interact. Political leaders are able to receive information and feedback from constituents faster and more easily. Citizens are able to organize and make their views known very efficiently.
With an e-literate citizenry, the result has been more input from the local level on political decisions, and less need for top-down government.
Access to information should be a basic right for every citizen. In the 21st century, universal access to the Information Highway will help ensure that societies are open, equitable and informed.
From its inception in late 1999, the GOL initiative has been guided by the Government of Canada's service vision, which aims to improve service for citizens, and increase productivity and transparency.
Consulting Canadians is a critical part of the Government of Canada's approach to building e-government. Between April 1, 2002, and March 31, 2003, more than 10 000 Canadians participated in surveys and focus groups on e-government and service improvement.
Increasingly, Canadians are using on-line services. They are reporting high levels of satisfaction with the services provided. The result is better, more responsive government. Many Canadians already rely on government Web sites to search for jobs, find reliable health information, register a business and access many other services. But this is just the beginning. By 2005, Canadians will be able to access more than 130 of their most commonly used services on-line.
Two factors motivate the Government of Canada's efforts to transform its services and service delivery network: the need to improve the service experience for citizens, and the need to increase productivity and transparency.
Canada's activities related to on-line service are conducted along the following five lines:
- service delivery;
- common secure infrastructure and architecture;
- organizational readiness and human resources; and
Citizens' expectations for immediate, seamless access to integrated public services continue to rise as more Canadians experience the convenience. Taxpayers look to governments to improve productivity and achieve better results across all public services.
The Government of Canada has used the power of Internet technology to organize information on its policies, programs and services in ways that make it easy for people to find what they need quickly. The Canada Site portal is built around the recognition that people in Canada and around the world seek on-line help for different reasons. Users can choose key topics or the powerful search engines to quickly find the information they need. The portal presents as many ways to find the right information as possible. The goal is to make sure that there are no wrong doors to government information and services.
In the process of putting information and services on-line, the government has also strengthened its partnerships with stakeholders involved in important services and programs. The Aboriginal Canada Portal involves a partnership of six national Aboriginal organizations and 11 Government of Canada departments and agencies. The process of creating the portal has been a catalyst for other projects and initiatives, including a forum that brought together some 400 Aboriginal stakeholders from across Canada and around the world.
Reaching Government Through the Internet
- Seventy percent of Canadian Internet users have visited a Government of Canada Web site.
- Thirty-four percent of Canadians report that their most recent contact with the federal government was through the Internet.
E-Democracy at Work
The foundation of democracy is two-way education and communications between citizens and those who govern them. With the pilot Consultation Portal, Canadians can learn about and participate in public consultations on a variety of issues that affect them. The portal groups information on various consultation activities across federal departments and agencies. Where possible, it also provides direct links to on-line consultations.
The result is more public awareness of government consultation, more opportunity for Canadians to participate and a better ability to engage Canadians in the public policy process.
Canada Site Portal
A student looking for government help to find a job; a woman who needs to change her address and basic information coordinates as listed in government databanks; a man contemplating how to proceed after losing his wallet — most scenarios would have these people trek to a wide range of individual organizations and government departments. The Government of Canada believed that there was a better, more user-friendly approach to solving life's problems. What if the services were organized according to the problems they solved?
The government's Canada Site does just that. Breaking down interdepartmental and intergovernmental "stove pipes," the site organizes information on the vast array of government services in a way that makes sense to users. For example, individuals can change all of their address and contact information in one on-line transaction.
Users can also create a page of bookmarks for their favourite links accessible through the Canada Site. Or they can register to be notified by e-mail whenever new links are added to their favourite sections on the site, and take advantage of on-line forms, and the government's Shop On-line sites.
Aboriginal Canada Portal
The Aboriginal Canada Portal provides a single window to more than 16 000 different Aboriginal-related pages across governments, universities, communities and associations.
The site constantly evolves to include new technologies and tools, such as the Virtual Aboriginal Trade Show, created in partnership with the Aboriginal International Business Development Group.
The portal has won several awards, including a Public Service Award of Excellence in 2002, and the bronze medal for Management of Information and Technology at the 2001 Industry Distinction Awards of Excellence.