Friday, July 21, 2017

On the Canadian Digital Service

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharney

Budget 2017 announced the creation of a new Canadian Digital Service (CDS):

Informed by similar initiatives in the U.S. (the U.S. Digital Service/18F) and the United Kingdom (the Government Digital Service), the Government will adopt new ways of serving Canadians. Better use of digital technologies could improve the ways in which businesses can access government services, speed up immigration processing times through better-integrated information, or make it easier for Canadians to access benefits or tax information online.

Earlier this week, their website and social media feeds went live. I checked out their site and (unsurprisingly) there are a lot of friendly and familiar faces on the team. These are good people looking to do good things and I'm looking forward to working with them on my core work (having had a kickoff meeting thereon a few weeks ago).

Now, all that being said the reaction to the CDS is unlikely to all be positive, one only needs to speak to folks working in any of the agencies listed above (e.g. 18F) to know that a couple basic rules of the internet are probably going to apply, haters gonna hate and come at me bro, spring to mind.

Haters are going to hate the CDS

Why? Because it's different, plays by different rules, and gets the fast lane. Or at least those are likely the charges that will be laid against them. I can hear it now, 'of course they could do x, they aren't restrained by y'. That CDS may have all of its T's crossed and I's dotted by the highest echelons of power is unlikely to influence people's perception of the service.

Look at 18F, good people looking to improve the way government delivers its services but the organization has also dealt with watchdogs coming down on their poor financial management in 2016 and their disregard for IT security policies in 2017. It also was flying close enough to the sun to publicly debate whether or not the agency's talent should continue to serve after the change in administration, but on this I'll reserve any further comment.

CDS will likely have to adopt a come at me bro attitude

Why? Because it can't come out swinging (that wouldn't be very collaborative!) but it will need to defend itself when others start taking aim. The reflex here is likely to be "delivery is the strategy" (or in old fashioned terms "putting its money where its mouth is") but that reflex may be insufficient when the criticism isn't aimed at the end but rather the means (i.e. the aforementioned CDS fast lane).

Final thought on CDS

One of the more interesting things to watch with CDS will be how they reconcile their personal social media with their official organizational online presence. As of right now their contacts page lists employee's Government of Canada email address, their personal Twitter account, their personal LinkedIn account, and/or their personal GitHub account (as applicable). To my mind it's the first such conflation of personal and professional online media on a Government of Canada website.

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