Best PracticesDigital TransformationLeadership

Cloud-Powered Digital Government : Canadian Case Studies

According to national industry association the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) governments’ slow adoption of cloud computing is wasting resources, slowing down innovation, limiting the delivery of digital services to Canadians and resulting in missed opportunities for technological competitiveness.

To address this situation and accelerate Cloud adoption they have published a white paper, offering a best practices guide and series of recommendations that centre around shuttering traditional data centres and migrating to a ‘Cloud Native’ architecture for enabling digital transformation.

Similarly the Canadian Government themselves published a ‘Right Cloud‘ strategy in 2016, defining how agencies should adopt a ‘Cloud First’ approach and make intelligent use of the right Cloud models such as IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.

Our contribution will be an ongoing review of leadership case studies:

Ontario – Building 21st Century Government on the AWS Cloud

By using AWS, the Government of Ontario is able to make government information and services accessible to everyone. This video interview with Zeena Abdulla describes their journey to the Cloud.

The Government of Ontario, Canada’s largest province with about 14 million people, looks after everything from healthcare and education to transportation and the environment. With the mandate to provide citizens with services clearly, quickly, and reliably, the Ontario Digital Services team turned to AWS to experiment with its website,

By shifting the website to the AWS Cloud, the site stopped going down, they had a disaster recovery solution, and auto-scaling capabilities, all without requiring an expensive infrastructure purchase.

Zeena Abdulla describes how despite the size of the province, the Ontario Digital Service actually started very small with a limited budget, a constraint that led them to explore the use of AWS.

To begin with they knew very little about the service, and through trial and error they mastered the technology and this empowered their technology experts. Zeena says:

“If you want to be a 21st century government, working in the open, sharing, working iteratively, experimenting are the key skills you need. This is the future, and a team that is really small and may not have the craziest skill sets can actually do pretty mighty things with the right tools, and that would be my message to other governments, to other public servants, just believe you can do great things.”

Nova Scotia – SaaS for Business Transformation

For Nova Scotia this promotional video from SAP SuccessFactors provides a quick overview of their digital transformation strategy. Kevin Briand, Executive Director of Business Solutions, explains that the province is going through a significant digital transformation initiative.

The primary use case for this particular project is that Nova Scotia has eight school boards, each doing recruitment slightly differently. So the goal of implementing SuccessFactors is to rationalize these into a single, common approach.

This is part of the Shared Services initiative, intended to guide government’s efforts to share services across departments, select Crown corporations and the health sector, intended to realize significant savings through this large scale efficiency.

Nova Scotia’s move to the Cloud has been a measured one; their analysis identified that moving to Ariba would account for over half of the cost savings they would enjoy, in excess of $25-30 million.

Before their approach saw each individual hospital implement their own procurement practices, each buying for a different price. Standardizing on Ariba enabled them to build a single catalogue for the whole province of the best negotiated pricing. Nova Scotia has applied this consolidation and centralization across multiple procurement categories, such as AR, AP and materials management.

Developing a Digital-Ready Public Service in Canada

At their Ottawa Public Sector Summit AWS assembled an expert panel to explore the culture and skills challenges of this scale and depth of Cloud adoption.

AWS public policy experts debated the topic with Olivia Neal of the Treasury Board, who makes the keynote point that continual learning is the essential dynamic, achieved through new models and mindsets for public sector employment, like the Gig Economy, encouraging more fluid movement in and out of the sector rather than a single lifelong journey where the academic skills gained to begin that journey also mark the end of their education.

From 10m:00 Dr. Wendy Cukier provides a detailed synopsis of her research into the gender and diversity aspects of this challenge, including how 40% of public sector organizations don’t consider themselves ready for digital transformation, and that there is a very low representation especially of younger women, highlighting the stunning fact that there are less women in Computer Science now than there was in 1989.

Wendy also makes the critical point that it’s not just tech skills that are holding back growth, identifying that for very advanced tech firms like AI companies, it’s actually a lack of business personnel such as Sales and Marketing that is the issue.

From 17m:45 she then talks through an eight point set of recommendations, concluding that the headline strategy is not to view diversity and digital skills needs as a narrow HR function, but as a holistic embrace of modernization overall, transforming traditional work culture to one that is more fluid and flexible to attract younger talent, mirroring Olivia’s point.

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