The CDXP – Canada’s Strategy for Government as a Platform

As described in a previous blog the backbone to Estonia’s success as the world’s leading digital nation has been their ‘X-Road’ system.

Canada has been pioneering their own equivalent system, the ‘Canadian Digital Exchange Platform’.

Government as a Platform

The CDXP is described as central to Canada’s strategy for implementing ‘Government as a Platform’, so let’s first explore that concept.

The secret sauce is the Platform Business Model, described in detail through academic literature and popular business books.

For example the MIT book ‘Platform Revolution‘ describes these hyper-scale disruptors like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter et al, as the book describes:

“Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba, Uber-these seemingly disparate companies have upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: the platform business model.”

The book builds on prior MIT research, such as this detailed 2007 research report on Platform Networks, this highly recommended presentation Platform Strategy and Open Business Models, and in a simpler format in this presentation, which defines:

“A “Network platform” is defined by the subset of components used in common across a suite of products (Boudreau, 2006) that also exhibit network effects. Value is exchanged among a triangular set of relationships including users, component suppliers (co-developers), and platform firms.”

Applying the concept to the public sector is defined as ‘GaaP’ – Government as a Platform.

Tim O’Reilly coined the concept in this presentation and documented in this book section, describing how traditional IT for government should become more like Facebook, Twitter and the other Internet pioneers who have been harnessing the evolution of the Cloud to become ‘platforms’, doing so for government would enable a shared infrastructure that enables more rapid digital transformations.

Writing for Computer Weekly Mark Thompson asks ‘What is Government as a Platform and How Can We Achieve it?’ where he examines the key principles and how they might be implemented. In another he explores the distinction with Platforms for Government, one being still the traditional ‘cathedral’ mode of organizing government, versus the truly disruptive approach of ‘bazaar’ marketplaces.

In his Code for America video Tom Loosemore describes the background and philosophy in making it a central design model for GDS, the UK Government’s digital team. Their latest progress update is available from the GDS GaaP blog, detailing adoption case studies such as How the Department of Trade is basing their digital transformation strategy upon the model.

The Digital Exchange Platform

The ultimate vision for Canadian GaaP is to realize a “OneGC”, an ability to provide any service on any platform or device and through any trusted partner.

a Digital Exchange Platform is being established to help enable government departments to authenticate data with each other and the outside world in a modern, secure, and unified way in an effort to deliver secure private services in a digital age.

In this Treasury Board presentation the CDXP lead Teresa D’Andrea, Director for Interoperability, provides an overview of the program, setting it in relation to the Estonian X-Road system with a view to replicating their success, via an approach tailored to Canada’s requirements.

The three key foundations to the program are:

1. Digital Identity Currently the process to access services is not intuitive, convenient, or user-friendly for Canadians, requiring separate accounts with multiple usernames and passwords. This will be address through ‘Sign In Canada’, enabling secure access to government services using a choice of trusted digital identities.

2. Canadian Data Exchange Platform (CDXP) – Currently there are numerous point-to-point connections for data sharing, which are messy and unmanageable.

The CDXP enables secure, private, real time information sharing with privacy and security “baked in”, allowing systems within and outside of government to connect and function in harmony to support digital service delivery to citizens and businesses.

3. Updated legislation and policy: Currently clients provide the same information to the government multiple times when applying for a service or benefit because some departments are unable to share this information with one another. To address this legislation will be modernized to a system of “Tell Us Once” – Any data updates provided to one government agency will be replicated to them all.

The core ethos and vision of GaaP is that every service should be accessible and consumable via an API, with the CDXP providing the enabling mechanisms of API interfaces, messaging and bulk data transfers. This would enable use case scenarios such as:

  • Automatic requests for passport renewals through travel booking systems.
  • Travel advisories integrated with online booking services.
  • Automatic registration of drones through retailers.
  • Voice-based access to election information.
  • Birth notification automatically launching benefits for the family at the municipal, provincial/territorial, and federal levels (e.g., Social Insurance Number).
  • Death event triggering updates for veteran benefits, passport status, and Old Age Security.
  • Sharing of drug recalls issued by the World Health Organization.
  • Exchanging import and export clearance data before the shipment lands.
  • Real-time sharing of arrest warrants across multiple levels of government.
  • Food exporters automatically applying for export certificates before the product even rolls off the production line.
  • Real-time submission of regulatory compliance data from various regulated sectors such as automotive, pharmaceutical, and resource development (e.g., mining).
  • Making payroll and human resources information available to employees in real time.
  • Seamless movement of employees across the GC due to integration between departmental systems.
  • Effortless employee onboarding from initial job posting to fully functioning team member.

A video presentation of the program is available via this recording of Teresa’s session at the OMG’s 2018 conference.

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