Six ways for governments to embrace IT innovation

A look back at 2015 shows how governments at all levels are embracing digital disruption — and the hard work that lies ahead.

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’Tis the season for making predictions. Let’s consider what lies ahead for government and technology in 2016.

This year, of course, culminated in the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His campaign platform promised to pump $900 million into innovation and incubation programs, so Canada’s ICT sector will be keeping an eye on how his Liberal government moves to make good on those plans in the New Year.

Canada’s new Digital Privacy Act came into effect this past summer, and 2016 may bring the first indicators of how government will enforce the law (and perhaps the first charges laid under the Act). Now that Canadian businesses have had a few months to digest the Act, we could see a boost in cyber insurance policy purchases as well.

As detailed by, IDC predicts more city governments around the world will experiment with the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2016, for everything from traffic monitoring to public safety initiatives. IDC warns, however, that 90 per cent of cities have no policies in place to deal with these technologies, so this trend could result in “increased privacy and security risks” and “more project risk and wasted spending.”

We hope it won’t be all that dire.

Here in Canada, Vancouver is one city that’s actually taking a strategic approach to technology (mobile, to be exact). That topic takes us into our roundup of some of the top tech issues that faced governments in 2015, as featured on expertIP.

1. Making public service mobile

“We can’t just throw devices at people and say we’ve got a mobile strategy,” said City of Vancouver CIO Mark MacDonald. Rather than rushing to dole out devices to all city staff, he formed a public/private sector team to figure out: which city workers really needed mobile enablement; how that could boost city staff productivity and customer service for Vancouverites; and which specific types of mobile tech would provide those boosts. MacDonald explained how he got it done despite common government pressures of cost containment and a heavily unionized public service workforce.

2. Digital disruption

Private enterprise isn’t the only space being disrupted by new digital technologies; governments at all levels also face disruption from upstart startups. Anthony Iannucci, CIO of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), described his agency’s plans to roll out a combination of on-board Wi-Fi, IoT sensors, mobile apps and location-based tech to make public transit much more customer-centric. Disruptors like Uber and Line 6 prove the TTC — and all government agencies — must focus more on customers or risk irrelevance.

3. Security vs. commerce

Governments around the world are grappling with how to maintain Internet security without quashing innovation and commerce in the new digital economy. The way former White House cyber czar Melissa Hathaway sees it, governments must strategically align both interests — security and the economy — rather than pit them against each other. She believes governments can streamline this monumental task by focusing their Internet security efforts on three areas of the economy: energy, finance and telecom infrastructure.

4. Stop being Internet cops

“The new role of the CISO is not to be an Internet cop,” Kent Schramm, Ontario’s CISO, declared at SC Congress Toronto. Alongside New Brunswick CISO Jamie Rees, Schramm talked about how the push/pull scenario of digital cyber security plays out in a public-sector setting. Rees said instead of being the Dr. No of the C-suite, there are ways to give “a qualified yes” by laying out all the potential security risks.

5. Ctrl+Govern+DEL?

Government e-scandals were clearly having a moment when Bernie Sanders joked about Hillary’s emails during the first Democratic candidates’ debate of 2015. British Columbia’s government dealt with the triple delete. Ontario’s scandal involved deleted gas plant emails. With questions also being raised about government retention of texts and instant messages, expertIP explored the potential implications for UCaaS.

6. Government-as-a-Platform

The public sector is rarely hailed as a hot bed of innovation. But UCaaS is one technology that governments can harness to catch up to private enterprise on the innovation front. Think about it: a way to repeat best practices across departments, collaborate and share content efficiently, save costs via video applications, and quickly build upon a platform without reinventing the IT wheel.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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