November 6, 2012
Check against delivery
It’s great to be here to participate in GTEC on its 20th anniversary.
Over the past 20 years, this event has become the premier showcase for the use of technology to drive government services across Canada and around the world.
And this year’s theme is right on the mark.
“Collaborating and Innovating: Making a Difference for Canadians”.
That’s why I went into public life.
And the public servants that I meet every day tell me they also want to contribute to making our country a better place to live.
I couldn’t agree more.
As the President of the Treasury Board, I have set out to challenge the status quo in government operations.
And I support you in your efforts to rethink the way we deliver services, so that we provide the best services to Canadians in the most effective and least costly way.
It’s an approach our Government is taking in numerous areas.
For example, many of you are leading efforts to use technology to help us to simplify, standardize and consolidate administrative functions and operations within and across government, like human resources and finance.
Work is underway on this as our Government shifts from departmental service delivery to enterprise-wide delivery models to achieve government-wide efficiencies.
This eliminates duplication and complexity, and allows for reinvestment into innovative solutions and services that put Canadians’ and business needs at the centre of design and delivery.
We are also looking at ways to enable better management, stronger accountability and more effective IT project oversight. In this regard, we are looking to other countries for best practices.
My department, for example, is using a public social coding platform called GitHub to manage a toolkit it has developed.
The Web Experience toolkit is a code library that helps other government departments and even external organizations build websites that are accessible, usable and interoperable.
This Government of Canada success story provides great efficiencies by building and sharing website components once, which many organizations can use instead of developing their own.
I’m proud to say that the team behind the toolkit won a Distinction Award this year.
In fact, I’m proud of all the government’s Award honourees. They exemplify the excellence and innovation within the Government of Canada.
And let me also recognize and thank all the people who have worked hard to bring their Web content and Web applications into line with the Standard on Web Accessibility.
Clearly, leveraging technology to challenge the status quo and improve government operations is one of my main areas of focus.
Another ambitious project our Government is working on is leveraging the vast amounts of data the government collects to support service delivery in areas such as health, environment, agriculture and natural resources.
Much of that data has never had a chance to see the light of day, and other information, such as census data collected by Statistics Canada, used to come with a price tag attached.
Now, census data and much, much more are available online in usable formats for free.
Canada has joined the increasing number of governments that are “opening the vault,” so to speak, on vast stores of potentially valuable data that could be used by the private sector, researchers and others to create new applications for the benefit of Canadians.
In fact, whether you are here, or in Spain, Kenya, India or Brazil, there's never been more data available to access and use.
Today, there are over 200 local, regional and national Open Data sites and counting around the world. In Canada alone, there are at least 30.
So the door is now being thrown open ― and the possibilities are truly exciting.
It’s also fair to say that we’re just starting to understand what the possibilities are when it comes to spurring innovation, fuelling growth, making government more accountable, and ultimately improving people’s lives.
Take the map application for example.
I couldn’t live without it as I travel around the country meeting Canadians and speaking at events like this.
Well, as you probably know, that GPS data which is the foundation of mapping applications, comes from government data.
It has since morphed into hugely popular business interests like the Weather Channel and the Weather Network and indispensable map apps that have unlocked an estimated $90-billion in value in the United States alone.
To get this information into the hands of those who want it, we launched the Open Data Portal pilot project in March 2011.
This is a one-stop shop for federal government data that can be downloaded free of charge by Canadian citizens, researchers, voluntary organizations and private-sector businesses.
So far, our Government has released more than 273,000 datasets on our Open Data portal from 22 participating federal organizations.
Our portal has attracted more than 1 million user sessions.
And about 150,000 datasets have been downloaded ― on everything from information on building permits, wait times for non-emergency surgeries, pollution emissions, to vehicle recalls.
Now, our Open Data site was created only 18 months ago as a pilot project.
And since then, we have been doing a lot of thinking about how to apply lessons learned from this pilot.
The good news is that we will be implementing the next generation open data platform next spring.
It will take our current platform, which is based on outdated code and proprietary technologies, to open source code, implemented and maintained through international partnerships and based on emerging technologies.
For users, this means enhanced search capabilities and the highest standards for open data services.
It will allow for real-time updating of data, while government departments will be able to publish data in bulk, making it easier for them to upload information.
I encourage all departments and agencies to capitalize on this new platform to make even more information accessible to those who want it.
New data sets just as of last July range from the number of dairy cows by province to processing wait times for residency applications.
And, to put in a plug for my own department, the Treasury Board Secretariat has released data on the financial expenditures of all federal departments and agencies as part of our efforts to make financial reporting more transparent and more accountable.
The new platform’s greater usability means far more opportunities to develop applications and other tools.
This means more data for entrepreneurs and innovators to transform into a value-added and highly sought-after finished product.
And the best part is that this platform will only get better as more countries use it and improve its functionality.
We certainly want users to have the maximum opportunity to reuse data with the least amount of restrictions.
That’s why two weeks ago, our Government posted a draft of a new, simplified licence agreement on our Open Data Portal. The proposed new licence will allow unrestricted commercial and non-commercial re-use of Government information, in line with international best practices.
It will go from a legalistic document to clear simple language that significantly simplifies the attribution process for using the data.
For example, users who mash up data from different federal government departments will no longer need to credit each individual department, but instead will be able to credit the Government of Canada.
The new licence will be officially released next spring but we are looking for feedback on its content from Canadians, which is why we posted it as part of an update to the site that went live at the end of October.
The updated content and features include a new apps section that illustrates how federal data is being used.
There are also links to all the other open data websites across Canada at the provincial and municipal level.
With our new platform and new licensing agreement, the sky will truly be the limit when it comes to the potentially valuable applications of government data.
And ultimately, this will improve the lives of Canadians.
Improving all of our lives is also the motivation behind our efforts to enhance online services for citizens and businesses.
To maintain this commitment, our Government needs to ensure we keep pace with the rapid growth and development of the Internet.
Our decision in June to adopt the new Internet protocol (called IPv6) is a good example of this commitment.
At a time when the old protocol is running out of available Internet addresses, it is vital that we move to this new way of enabling the growth of the Internet.
Our strategy will ensure that our Web presence remains accessible to citizens, businesses and the world.
It will also promote awareness of the new protocol and encourage Canadian businesses to adopt it.
In addition, I’m pleased to note that since 2009, our Government has been working with the telecommunications industry to develop solutions related to the new protocol.
We have also been collaborating with our counterparts in several other nations, including Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. to leverage lessons learned and best practices.
This is a multi-year implementation strategy. But we are making good progress in ensuring that our Government remains accessible to citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions worldwide as the use of the Internet and e-government continues to grow.
Our Government will also be changing some features of its online service to offer the public a choice of service providers to authenticate their credentials when logging in to government online programs or services.
The options will include a private-sector based service and GCKey — a login service option offered by the Government of Canada.
As part of our efforts to enhance our online presence, we have also been given a strong mandate to revamp our social media strategy, mobile applications and Web presence.
We are, for example, working on consolidating our Web presence from 1,500 to 6 or fewer websites.
This consolidation will focus on putting the needs of citizens first rather than organizing our websites around the structure of government.
Ultimately, this will lead to an integration of services among different departments and thus improve services by saving clients time and effort.
And ensuring that Government of Canada websites all share the same technology platform will increase the efficiency of government operations.
We will also work to expand our use of social media and take advantage of the increasing use of mobile applications.
The world is changing quickly. And what citizens expect of government is changing as well.
They want services that are easily accessible, fast and flexible.
To meet those expectations, we need to challenge the status quo and transform the way we work.
Technology offers us the tools to do just that. To develop new ways of doing business that lead to both real savings and improved services for Canadians.
And through our Government’s Open Data initiative, we can draw upon our entrepreneurial sector's role as creators of jobs and economic growth.
In short, we are in a period of enormous opportunity. So let’s make the most of it.