Oh, Canada: Gov't Offers New Online
Oh, Canada: Gov't Offers New Online<@VM>Canada on the Web: Sites of Interest<@VM>Connecting Canada At a Glance<@VM>Neighborly Advice
- By Joab Jackson
- Aug 09, 2001
Canada's ambitious plan to be the world's most-connected government is expected to generate billions of dollars of work for systems integrators and other information technology contractors.
Under its Government On-Line initiative, Canada is planning to spend roughly $183 million in U.S. dollars to fulfill Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's pledge that by 2004, Canadian citizens will be able "to access all government information and services online at the time and place of their choosing."
But this planned spending is just the tip of the iceberg for achieving Chrétien's goal, said Steve Bloomfield, vice president for federal work at EDS Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas.
The online services developed under the initiative will run the gamut from health, jobs, taxes, travel and culture to environment and business services. Canadian departments and agencies also will share in the costs and start their own related work.
"This will be a very significant part of our business two or three years down the road," Bloomfield said, adding that EDS Canada will compete for large e-solution and infrastructure projects.
Martin McGrath, vice president of public-sector practice for KPMG LLP, Ottawa, said the Government On-Line initiative may generate nearly $2 billion worth of work for private contractors.
Participation in Canada's initiative also could provide companies with a valuable calling card for snaring work with other governments, said David Little, founding partner of PSTG Consulting of Toronto and Ontario. Little, who expects PSTG eventually will do 80 percent of its business through Government On-Line, said his company has already been approached by a number of governments hoping to replicate some of the work done in Canada.
Canada is considered a world leader in electronic government initiatives. In an April study of 22 countries' e-government developments, Accenture Ltd. ranked Canada as the most progressive in offering online services, ahead of Singapore (No. 2) and the United States (No. 3). Accenture said Canada had a commitment to "break open the traditional departmental approach to online service delivery, and instead place the needs of citizens and businesses at the core."
Not surprisingly then, the Government On-Line initiative has attracted many of the largest multinational systems integrators and solutions providers, as well as smaller, more specialized IT companies.
Along with EDS Canada and KPMG, more than 150 companies were prequalified to participate in the initiative, including Accenture, IBM Canada, American Management Systems Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., Science Applications International Corp. Canada and Unisys Canada Inc.
The Government On-Line initiative, which is overseen by the Treasury Board, was launched in the fall of 1999 by Chrétien. Governmentwide Internet services are being rolled out in three phases, said Helen McDonald, director general of the Government On-Line project office.
The first phase, completed last December, involved federal agencies and departments posting online all information that would be of use to citizens, such as forms and publicly accessible records.
Second-tier work will bring federal services online. By the end of 2004, citizens will be able to do everything from getting their drivers' licenses renewed to applying for business permits electronically.
Federal departments were required to submit their plans by July 31 for the second-tier services they will provide. These working plans, according to McDonald, should be posted by mid-October.
The third tier of work ? and the most ambitious ? will happen after 2004 and will involve seamless "interjurisdictional" services, McDonald said. This will include offering services from different departments through centralized portals.
The effort also includes what the Government On-Line office calls Pathfinder projects. They are cutting-edge programs that will serve as examples and set the standards for succeeding endeavors.
The Treasury approved a first round of 27 Pathfinder projects in October 2000. They included an application to process grants and contributions for the department of Canadian Heritage, a public key infrastructure foundation for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, and an electronic query service to provide information on citizenship and immigration status from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
As of press time, the government was set to announce the second round of winning Pathfinder projects, which will receive about $40 million in funding. The second-round projects will be designed to break new ground in privacy, security, information management and interdepartmental service integration.
The projects will be picked from a pool of 57 entries submitted from various federal agencies, and will compete among the prequalified companies announced in June, McDonald said.
Paul Desjardins, vice president and general manager of the Canadian solutions group of JetForm Corp., Ottawa, likens the third-tier approach to government services as the "no wrong door" concept, which means that users can get the information they need by entering any government portal.
For example, when you lose your wallet, you can notify all the local, provincial and federal agencies at one time, Desjardins said.
The interjurisdictional approach also simplifies the maze of services that Canada offers, said Greg Lane, director of business development in the Ottawa office of Deloitte Consulting, New York. Lane served on the committee that helped define the contract vehicle for Government On-Line.
"There are over 600 programs and services that Canadians can apply for. How can anyone even know about all of these programs?" Lane said. Sites that gather together these services will, in effect, shift the work of sifting through material from citizens and businesses to the government, he said.
Such interagency projects will be sure to keep Canadian contractors and the Canadian offices of international companies busy for some time.
"I think it will be a great deal of work for us," Desjardins said. "It is a significant amount of work that runs across all levels of government."
For JetForm, the initiative has already resulted in two projects. In one, the company has partnered in the Secure Channel consortia, led by network integrator Bell Nexia, Toronto, a subsidiary of Bell Canada Inc. The secure channel, due to be completed in spring 2002, will be the underlying infrastructure for online transactions. JetForm will provide the solution for the collection, identification, protection and presentation of data across the network.
Another initiative is Ontario's Integrated Justice Project, a first-round Pathfinder winner in which JetForm is partnered in an alliance led by EDS Canada. This project enables lawyers to electronically fill out, sign and submit civil court forms that can later be used in court as official documents. This project will be online by the end of August.
Industry officials said the bulk of heavy lifting for the Government On-Line initiative remains to be done. Kim Devooght, general manager of the federal public sector for IBM Canada, Markham, Ontario, compared this stage of the online initiative to the year 2000 bug and the years leading up to the turn of the century.
"In 1998, everyone realized there was a lot of work to be done, [but] it still hadn't hit a level of urgency yet," he said. But like the Y2K work, Canada's online initiative and its 2004 deadline is just as necessary, Devooght said.
"The government did the right thing for imposing a deadline," he said. "This just didn't come out of the blue. Canada must survive in a global market."The Canada Site
Canada's home pageGovernment On-Line
Information on the Government On-Line initiativeConnecting Canadians
All about Canada's connectivity agendaChief Information Officer Branch, Treasury Board Secretariat
Canada's CIO Industry Canada
Canada's department for business assistance National Broadband Task Force
High-speed Internet in every homeA list of Government
On-Line prequalified businesses
In PDF formatCanada's Government On-Line initiative is one piece of a larger effort called Connecting Canadians. It seeks to make the country a global leader in information and communications technologies. Started in 1998, elements of Connecting Canadians include:
? Canada On-Line
: A project to establish up to 10,000 public Internet access sites across Canada and to connect libraries and schools.
? Smart Communities:
A $39 million (U.S. dollars), three-year program to develop 12 demonstration community-based information programs.
? The Electronic Commerce Policy Framework:
A regulatory framework to foster electronic commerce through taxation moderation, relaxed cryptography regulations, privacy and consumer protection guidelines and development of public key infrastructure.
? Government On-Line:
A $183 million initiative to provide comprehensive online delivery of government services.
? Connecting Canada to the World:
An effort to establish Canada's role in the emerging global knowledge-based economy, through a $6 million international student internship program and a partnership program to link foreign governments and companies with Canadian educational information and communications technologies.
Canada has also established the National Broadband Task Force to bring high-speed broadband Internet services to all Canadian communities by 2004.U.S. government officials, grappling over how to institute a federal chief information officer, could perhaps borrow a few pointers from Canada, which has had its own CIO for two years.
Canada's CIO Branch falls within the Treasury Board Secretariat. The branch oversees interdepartmental efforts by providing direction in uses of information technology and setting standards in governmentwide concerns such as public key infrastructure. The CIO is Michelle d'Auray.
A CIO branch is important in that it provides a counterbalance to the departmental programs themselves, said Helen McDonald, director general of the Government On-Line project office. In this way, the CIO can establish governmentwide best practices and, through committees manned by agency heads, help agencies avoid duplicating efforts.
All of which must take a deft touch. As Martin McGrath, vice president of public-sector practice for KPMG LLP, Ottawa, said of the CIO-implemented Government On-Line initiative: "It is not an attempt at command and control, but a cohesive and coordinated effort to offer services online."
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.