How did we get here?

How did we get here?

The Government of Canada (GC) is making meaningful progress to improve citizen service. However, the management of federal digital service delivery, and the information technology (IT) that supports it, remains complex and challenging.

A fragmented approach to service delivery

Historically, services across the federal government have been developed independently of each other. This has resulted in siloed services and data, with each department developing its own approach to digital service delivery for Canadians. For Canadians and businesses using federal digital services, this has led to inconsistent user experiences and service quality across GC departments.

A fragmented approach to IT infrastructure

Federal government organizations depend on Shared Services Canada (SSC) to provide modern and reliable information technology (IT) infrastructure and services to provide Canadians with important programs and services. However, prior to its creation in 2011, each federal department managed its own IT infrastructure and services independently, which resulted in fragmented IT infrastructure that needed to be upgraded and consolidated.

Over time, SSC was able to achieve efficiencies in IT management. This was in part due to the GC’s recognition that additional investment was required to effectively tackle the immensity of the task.

In recent years, significant investments have been made to modernize and enhance the Government’s digital services. SSC has made progress on some foundational elements of Digital Government, including decommissioning costly legacy data centres, implementing modern, cross-government IT solutions, and helping departments modernize their older IT systems and applications.

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how the GC relies on digital services to deliver modern services to Canadians. Recognizing this, the GC has allocated additional funding to SSC and other GC departments to deliver reliable and secure digital access to more government services.

The accumulation of “technical debt”

Decades of under-investment have resulted in the accrual of significant “technical debt” as IT infrastructure is aging faster than the pace of repairs or replacements.  Aging software systems that support service delivery can be very costly to maintain, are at risk of performance failures, and are prone to service interruptions to Canadians. Similarly, some hardware has become technologically obsolete and has depreciated beyond its useful life.

Recent investments in critical upgrades and modernizing Canada’s IT infrastructure will enable continued progress on addressing Canada’s technical debt. Moreover, cyclical repair and replacement of critical IT infrastructure will allow modern systems to continue running efficiently and adapt to changing needs.

Digital skills gap

Historically, the GC has struggled with recruiting and retaining digital talent with the skills necessary to design and deliver the type of services people expect in a digital age. However, by focusing on transformational change, user experience, and agile methods of working, the public service has been attracting tech employees with digital skills interested in working on short‑term projects through the Interchange Canada program, as well as offering more varied opportunities for up‑skilling and digital skills training for public servants.

Outdated procurement and project management practices

Past traditional procurement and project management practices have led to highly publicized problems with IT projects across government. There has, however, been progress made. For example, the most recent report from the Office of the Auditor General on the government’s procuring of complex IT solutions highlighted that considerable efforts to implement better IT procurement processes.

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