Digital TransformationTechnology

Cloud-Powered Digital Government: Developing a Digital Ready Public Service in Canada

Exploring the role the Cloud will play in accelerating Canadian Digital Government services.

Tens of thousands of active customers of all sizes, from the National Bank of Canada to Goodlife Fitness, use AWS to transform the way they do business.

AWS launched a Canadian zone in 2016, signing a framework agreement with the government in 2019, with the details of their Protected B services described here.

By December 2019 AWS were reporting a rapidly expanding footprint across the country, with key Canadian sectors like Oil & Gas adopting their services, as well as Government.

AWS for Public Sector

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 for the Canadian Government.

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.

At their 2019 Ottawa Public Sector Summit Rejean Bourgault, who heads up AWS Canada’s government team, leads a comprehensive walk through of AWS in Canada, their product portfolio and how it is being used to stimulate and enable innovative new digital services, including a case study from Economic Development Canada.

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, Ontario.ca.

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.”

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