COVID-19 Questions and Answers

Shared Services Canada (SSC) plays a vital role in supporting the federal departments and agencies that are providing critical government services to Canadians.

Amid the current COVID-19 Pandemic, SSC is working with government organizations to ensure that their IT infrastructure and telecommunications needs continue to be met.

These questions and answers provide insight into how SSC is supporting the work of federal public servants across Canada as they deliver services to Canadians when they need them most.

Supporting Canadians

What is our role in helping Canadians through this pandemic?

We are responsible for providing reliable, secure IT infrastructure and telecommunications to the Government of Canada organizations delivering critical services directly to Canadians.

This includes email and workplace technologies, telecommunications, data centre services, and cyber and IT security.

In times of emergency, SSC’s services are critical to ensuring continuous services to Canadians. Given the unprecedented threats posed by COVID-19, SSC is taking action to support the critical services of other departments in addition to general preparedness activities.

What have we done so far?

We have enabled GC employees to access their digital workspaces anywhere, anytime, by:

  • More than doubling the government’s secure network capabilities so that more public servants than ever before are equipped to access networks and systems while teleworking
  • Increasing Internet bandwidth to the Government of Canada by 50% to 60 GBps,

We have also supported collaboration from home offices around the country by:

  • Tripling capacity for teleconferencing to 5 million minutes per day (up from 1.6 million minutes per day)
  • Providing more than  187,000 #GC employees in 40 departments with access to MS Teams and M365 which is helping them be productive in their remote work,
  • Increasing WebEx video capacity from 20,000 total accounts to 40,000
  • Providing mobile Internet for more than 1,000 federal first responders across Canada
  • Enabling Wi-Fi calling for 183,000 mobile accounts across Canada
  • provisioning thousands of devices (laptops, tablets, phones) to address emergency requirements and support of critical Government of Canada services
How are we supporting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)?

We worked with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to help launch the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

We continue to work with ESDC and CRA to provide recommendations and remediation to support critical new and enhanced federal benefits for Canadians.

SSC provided the IT infrastructure CRA needed for its MyAccount application to handle the more than 15 million CERB applications received to date.

How are we supporting our first responders?

We enabled Mobile Broadband for First Responders (MBFR) for more than 1,000 users across the GC. This service provides essential personnel like first responders and critical infrastructure supporters with priority mobile voice and data services in times of commercial congestion.

Supporting Public Servants

How are we working with other departments during this pandemic?

We are working in close collaboration with the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 lead—Public Safety under the Federal Emergency Response Plan (FERP) — and our GC partners.

We play an important role in ensuring critical services for Canadians remain operational during emergency events.

In addition, several of SSC’s customer departments are first responders or lead agencies with a primary role during a disruptive event. SSC’s support of their efforts is imperative.

Read more in our report, Shared Services Canada: One Year Into COVID-19.

How will we support departments as COVID-19 restrictions ease?

Increasing access to worksites needs to be coordinated and prioritized to ensure employee safety and allow the GC network to support increased demand.

Our GC partners have been given access to many new tools to enable better communication and collaboration between teams while they are working remotely. Some of these tools, such as videoconferencing, use a significant amount of bandwidth.

We need to ensure that GC networks can handle the increased demand on the network if our GC partners choose to use these tools when employees return to the workplace.

We are working with our GC partners to ensure that networks can handle the increased demand so employees can use these tools when they return to worksites.

We have already begun working with our GC partners to evaluate where we will need to change infrastructure to handle the increased demand.

How are we supporting public service employees with disabilities, injuries and ergonomic requirements in their workplace during the pandemic?

The Accessibility, Accommodations and Adaptive Technology (AAACT) program continues to serve Government of Canada employees during emergencies, including COVID-19.

AAACT’s mandate is to support federal public service employees with disabilities, injuries and ergonomic requirements in their workplace by providing access to systems, programs, computers, and computer resources. AAACT also loans adaptive equipment and software for employees to borrow or try out, and provides quick access to specialized adaptive solutions for to short-term employees. Specialized equipment can be shipped directly to the employee’s workplace.

During this challenging period due to COVID-19 where many federal public servants are working remotely, the AAACT program team continues to offer assistance with job accommodations and adaptive solutions and technology via audio and video conference. The AAACT program can be reached at aaact-aatia@ssc-spc.gc.ca or by telephone at 819-994-4835, TTY 819-994-3692.

Is the delivery of online services to Canadians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more Canadians accessing services online than ever before.

Additionally, new services and benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, have placed an increased demand on GC networks.

Our role has been to work with our GC partners to ensure they have the infrastructure they need to continue delivering online services to Canadians.

Network Capacity and Connectivity

How many public servants can work remotely over VPN?

The GC now has Secure Remote Access (SRA) capacity for more than 284,000 users. This is more than double the capacity from the beginning of 2020.

We continue to work with private sector vendors on expanding SRA capacity to support remote work.

In addition to increased network capacity, our GC partners are taking action to limit non-critical network usage and reduce non-critical activities. Departments are responsible for determining what activities are deemed critical in order to meet their business objectives.

Critical Services

What is considered a critical service or application?

Critical applications and technology include those that many Canadians are relying on during this difficult time, including Canada Revenue Agency systems, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.

We worked with our GC partners to identify their critical services and applications. Once identified, we prioritized them for support.

What has SSC put in place to prevent mission-critical systems from failing?

We have an Emergency Management program to mitigate and respond to emergency events in support of Government of Canada departments, and to protect SSC assets.

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