The federal government has the potential to improve delivery of digital-first services via a three-lens approach—digital culture, digital skills, and digital access.
From long lineups for passport applications, to delayed processing times for tax and benefit claims, people in Canada often encounter challenges with government digital services. Despite significant digital advancements in the private sector, government digital services have struggled to meet rising expectations.
This report, in partnership with The Dais, assesses the level of digital transformation of Canadian government services through the lenses of digital culture, skills, and access. Despite efforts by dedicated civil servants, the government faces challenges to be a global leader in these efforts, such as a fragmented bureaucracy, legacy systems, deficient digital skills, and equity considerations. In contrast, government peers globally exhibit more agile and inclusive digital services. The report aims to understand the factors hindering Canada's progress and offer recommendations for enhancing digital maturity across government functions.
The Government of Canada’s digital maturity lags behind both peer governments and the private sector. Canada’s ranking on the United Nations’ E-Government Development Index has dropped from sixth in 2003 to thirty-second in 2022, with only 23 percent of government services available online end-to-end.
Existing digital infrastructure makes it difficult for the Government of Canada to put its robust policy guidelines for delivering digital services into practice.Outdated and siloed legacy digital systems hinder data-sharing and digital service delivery across departments, and prevent innovations from being scaled across the government.
Government culture is at odds with effective digital adoption. A heavy reliance on external vendors, antiquated project management methodologies, and inconsistency in approaches to IT projects across departments are standard, and often result in IT that is delayed, over-budget, and ineffective.
There is a digital skills deficit in the federal government. Despite having a strong pool of digital talent to draw from, the federal government fails to attract and retain top digital and design talent, and also lacks basic digital literacy and skills across all positions.
Canada faces a stark digital divide. A lack of basic digital infrastructure and a wide array of social and economic barriers contribute to gaps in the accessibility of digital services. These gaps disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples, older Canadians, those living in rural and remote communities, and those with lower income and education levels.
Cultivate a digital culture. The successful implementation of digital transformation requires a strong management structure that promotes a culture of digital design and collaboration. Leaders in each government department should regularly address the challenges posed by outdated IT systems and establish processes to improve outcomes.
Improve digital procurement practices. Digital procurement plays a vital role in improving digital services within the Canadian government. The Government should consider adopting agile project management methodologies and smaller contracts open to a wider range of domestic and small to medium-sized firms.
Attract, retain and train digital talent. Basic digital literacy and user-centric design skills should be considered core competencies for public servants. These skills should be incorporated through hiring procedures, formal training programs, and flexible strategies like microcredentials, mentorships, coaching, workshops, and job shadowing.