Over the last 30 years, technology has been promised to transform government and public services. But the reality hasn’t always matched the promise. Why is that? On our very first episode of Let’s Think Digital, we unpack what is going on, and how we might use the “Pac-Man” model to drive digital transformation.
Joining host Ryan Androsoff, are Dorothy Eng, Executive Director of Code for Canada, Winter Fedyk, CEO of Silo Strategy, and Luke Simcoe, a change management and communications expert.
Cold Open Source: Clinton Library
Watch the Video Version of the Episode
Bill Clinton (Archival Video): Good morning. Earlier this week, we launched a new and improved White House website. website at www.whitehouse.gov. The new and improved White House website is another important step in our efforts to make government high speed, high tech, and user friendly. We're bringing information that matters into people's homes, policy papers, the Citizen's Handbook, links to federal agencies.
Bill Clinton (Archival Video): We've also made it easier to find the features that visitors use most. Like emailing the White House, taking an online tour, or finding special activities for kids.
Ryan Androsoff: You just heard a clip from former President Bill Clinton back in 1994, launching the first official White House website and one of the first official government websites in the world. This was back in the early days of the worldwide web, as we used to call it. And the US government, along with the Canadian government and many other governments around the world in the mid 1990s were, for the very first time, bringing information and services onto the worldwide web, making them accessible to people in a way that was much easier and faster and much more global than ever before. There was a lot of excitement back then, a lot of optimism around what this introduction of new technology into the public sphere and into government could do to improve citizen services, to increase transparency, to increase engagement with citizens. That was almost 30 years ago now.
Ryan Androsoff: And I think for those of us who are working in this space that we often call digital government today, I don't think it's a stretch to say that many people feel that we have not achieved the ambitions that we would've hoped that we would've been able to this far into this digital journey that we're collectively on as a society.
Ryan Androsoff: And so it really raises the question as to what's holding us back? What is stopping government and public sector institutions more broadly to be able to harness and take advantage of some of these new technologies, these online ways of working, which in many cases are not actually that new anymore, and have been around for decades.
Ryan Androsoff: I'm Ryan Androsoff, and you're listening to Let's Think Digital.
Ryan Androsoff: This is our first episode of this new podcast, which is gonna be exploring issues around technology and society, and the public good.
Ryan Androsoff: We'll have a mix of experts coming to join us for group discussions, some one-on-one interviews. All of them really kind of focused on these issues around how government and the public sector are adapting to the digital world we're in and what we can do to be able to accelerate some of that progress and the barriers that sometimes hold us back from seeing the change that we'd like to see happen.
Ryan Androsoff: I'm really excited to have a great group joining me today, of experts and thought leaders in this space.
Ryan Androsoff: We're gonna be joined by Dorothy Eng, Winter Fedyk and Luke Simcoe, who are all associates with Think Digital, but are also practitioners who've been involved working in and with government in this digital change arena for many years. So welcome to all of them and really excited to dive into today's conversation.
Ryan Androsoff: Dorothy, maybe I'll go over to you first.
Dorothy Eng: Sure. Thanks Ryan. Thanks for, for having me. So I'm Dorothy, executive Director of Code for Canada. We are a mission driven national nonprofit helping governments to modernize the delivery of public services so that they better meet residents' needs. I am a passionate civic technologist. Prior to this role in, in working at Code for Canada I also worked in kind of large scale enterprise-wide public sector technology projects at various technology vendors. So have been in the space for a while from, from different angles in different sectors, and yeah, have, have a lot of observations and learnings to… ready to dig in with others here.
Ryan Androsoff: That's great. Winter, I'll go over to you next.
Winter Fedyk: My name is Winter Fedyk. I'm a consultant right now who works with the public sector in, in policy development and delivery support. I've got about 20 years of experience working with governments across Canada. I've worked in Ottawa with the federal government, for the public service of Saskatchewan, where I'm based out of right now in Regina, and I also do some consulting now with Northern governments. My interest in digital government kind of came about five or six years ago when I was working in the public service in Saskatchewan and, and was involved in a major project around replacing some aging technology and at that time, because I don't have any background experience in digital, so I'll just put that caveat out there right now, I'm not a technical person. But I was responsible for, you know, supporting that procurement. And I remember seeing a tweet by Dorothy, actually, and Code for
Winter Fedyk: I need to, to know what I'm doing here. And so kind of got connected and really interested through that. And then also kind of the design thinking discussions that were happening in the public policy space. So that's kind of where my perspective comes from, from the digital government.
Ryan Androsoff: That's great. Now we're gonna dive into that more, for sure. And, and Luke, maybe give a little bit of your background.
Luke Simcoe: My name's Luke Simcoe. I'm really excited for this conversation and, and, and my route into digital government, starts actually somewhat similar to, to Winter and Dorothy's at, at Code for Canada.
Luke Simcoe: So, worked there alongside Dorothy and others for about five years trying to sort of change and innovate government from the outside. Got really curious about, you know, what it takes to make change happen on the inside. And so I'm currently a public servant with the government of Ontario working in change management and service design and, you know, kind of really trying to tackle the problem from, from all different angles.
Ryan Androsoff: That's great. Thanks everybody. Yeah, I, I think, I think all three of you bring some very unique, interesting perspectives on, on these questions we want to dive into. So in the, in the intro for the episode at the beginning, we played a clip from, from Bill Clinton, who was president in the 1990s. And he was announcing the White House's first website, which was on October 21st of 1994. Way back. So, pop quiz for all of you. Do you know when the government of Canada's first website launched, anybody wanna offer up a guess?
Luke Simcoe: Starts in the 90s.
Dorothy Eng: It would've, it would've been ha- it would've had to been after that. So like, cause we're always, you know...
Ryan Androsoff: So that's interesting that you think it would have to be after that.
Dorothy Eng: So that's why I always feel like, you know, we're always looking, scanning, scanning globally and seeing what else others are doing. And then we're like, okay, now we'll make a move. Uh, so I'm gonna say maybe two or three years after, like 97.
Ryan Androsoff: Okay, so Dorothy says 97. Yeah. Winter, what's your guess?
Winter Fedyk: Uh, I'll guess, I'll guess 98. But I will say, I remember when Google first hit the public service, when I was a public servant and it was 2001, and my boss came into my office and was like, why are you using… I think it was like the Microsoft one. She's like, you gotta use this new thing called Google. Like, I remember this conversation in my office.
Winter Fedyk: It was, what, my first year of working as a public servant, and so I'm super interested to hear the answer to this question.
Ryan Androsoff: That's awesome. Luke, what's your, what's your guess?
Luke Simcoe: Well, I, I, is it like, price of right- price is right rules? Is it closest without going over? And so like, maybe I'll choose 1995?
Ryan Androsoff: Awesome. Okay. Well, actually none of you got it bang on, but you were all close. You were all close. It was 1996.
Luke Simcoe: That, that was gonna be my other guess!
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, exactly. So about a year and a half, two years afterwards. Yeah. Dorothy, I think you're right. I think we, we have this tendency not wanting to be first on a lot of things in Canada, we're really happy to be second or third, but sometimes don't want to, don't want be first on some of these new areas.
Ryan Androsoff: It was pretty basic. It was, it was very, very basic. It was like one, one gif and like a couple of like text links. As, as a lot of websites were, back in those days.
Luke Simcoe: What was the gif?
Ryan Androsoff: It was just like a little, like Canada logo or like, not, this is, this is pre kind of government of Canada Wordmark logo. Right. So it was just a, a pixelated, not animated one.
Luke Simcoe: I just wanted like a spinning, a spinning maple leaf. Oh, that's too bad. Okay. It wasn't animated.
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah. Yeah. It wasn't one of the animated ones, which were obviously kind of big back in those days on a lot of, uh, a lot of those early websites. But you know what, what's shocking is, I mean, thinking back about this now, I mean, that's pushing 30 years ago, right? So, you know, we're, we're in 2023 now, you know, and, and I think the US government was, I can't say it was the first government to go on the web, but it was certainly one of the first governments to have an internet presence, and Canada was a couple years behind. You know, so we're over 25 years pushing 30 years of being in the kind of internet era of government. And I try to think back a little bit to, to what the expectations were, you know, back then as to, you know, if I kind of put myself back into my 1996, you know, per self, which like, full disclosure, I was back in high school at that point, just figuring out what
Winter Fedyk: That's interesting because I mentioned about how I could only access Google in 2001. I would not have been able to have physical access to that website for a number of years because when I first started government, you know, I remember the senior policy analyst when he was writing briefing notes for, for cabinet and for the minister, was still writing everything out by hand and having the secretary transcribe everything.
Winter Fedyk: And that was in 2001. Right. So it take- like the thinking about that adoption. It, it, it's taken a while and I think we're only now getting to some of those fundamental questions, which is why we haven't advanced in terms of digital government. It takes a long time for human beings to change, right?
Ryan Androsoff: No, it's, it's a great point, Winter. And, and well, and, and you do work, you know, up in some jurisdictions, particularly up north, where even today, internet access isn't always a given, right? I mean, you know, we sometimes can have a very like, urban perspective on this, but I think you're right.
Ryan Androsoff: Luke, Dorothy, curious on your thoughts on like, you know, if you, if you kind of put yourself in a time warp back, you know, 25, 30 years at the, at the dawn of the internet era, what you might have thought would be happening three decades in the future.
Dorothy Eng: I'm, I'm just imagining that first webpage of the Government of Canada. And, I, like, the words “the internet is a series of tubes”. It's like just coming, coming in my head. And I, I feel like that could still apply to like, some of the conversations we sometimes have with, with, you know, different public sector folks.
Dorothy Eng: I'm, I'm, you know, trying to be funny here. But yeah, I think, I think in general, I, I think honestly, if, if we… yeah, like it's, it's easy to also kind of say like, 30 years ago would we have thought the government would, you know… have reached some technological bar that would, that would align with, you know, our expectations as citizens. It, it was really even hard back then to really, you know, even imagine that one day we would have, like, you know, computers in our pockets that are in the form of smartphones and, and, you know, touch screens and like, and anything beyond at the time, which was just like, you know, a brick cell phone was like really, really, really big like advancement.
Dorothy Eng: So it is, it is actually kind of crazy when you think about, like how fast like technology in general has moved and I think actually thinking of that scale of timeline and how fast things have moved, really helps to like bring back like some humility, right? That like actually, it does make, it kind of makes sense that, you know, organizations that were designed, or institutions that were designed for, you know, forever, like government, to change at that kind of pace is, is, is extremely difficult.
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, and you know what, Dorothy, it's a great point on, I mean, on the organizational side, but I'm also thinking on the human side as well. I mean, 30 years on the one hand is a long time, but it's not… it's not centuries, right? And, and Winter a little bit to what you were sharing, you know, your anecdote when you joined into government the first time. Like, there's a lot of people now in kind of senior management positions in government who didn't grow up or start their careers, you know, in the internet era, right. We're still on that bubble right now where a lot of kind of, I would say the senior leadership in government actually comes from the pre-internet era.
Luke Simcoe: I guess I kind of wanna put on my change management hat and like… part of doing that well is about celebrating wins. And I, and I think it's, it's, it's disingenuous to suggest that we haven't moved past the, like website with the, you know, the, the gif maple leaf, you know, kind of thing. I think, you know, we have made strides. There's lots you can do. I'd say like, a lot of that has come probably in the last decade, more so than the sort of 20 years, you know, if we're talking a 30 year timeline, you know, I think, um, you know, it, it's that change has happened more recently than perhaps it should have. So it really is to Dorothy's point about pace. And then I think, so we're, we're, we're not in like a, “is government online?”, you know, era anymore that's well past us. Government is definitely online. You know, I can renew my driver's license and, you know, whatnot online. I can file m
Ryan Androsoff: It's interesting, like, again, kind of thinking back on the history of this, you know, in the early days of what people kind of called e-government, I mean, Canada was viewed as a world leader around this. Right? The UN has their e-government rankings that they put out, and they, you know, in the early days, their very first one, which was in 2003, we were sixth in the world, we were actually at a high of third in the world in 2010. Since over the last decade and a bit. The, the latest UN ranking that came out, and I think there's probably open questions around the methodology that are worth talking about. But we're at 32 on, on, on the index now, you know, down from a high of three. And I don't think it's, personally, I don't think it's that we've gotten worse… I think it's that others have improved a bit faster than we have. And, and, and Luke, I'm just, I was thinking a little bit about
Winter Fedyk: Well, and yes and no. Like Canada's a federal government, right? A federal country. And that really impacts, I think, how digital government expresses itself in this country. And you know, we talked about that real shift. When did that real shift happen? I think for me it was that question around user design that Luke brought up, right, and user experience, because then governments start to think about public value, and that's where the question of digital government gets really messy, especially in a federal system like ours, where you've got various levels of government responsible for, for providing those services to citizens.
Winter Fedyk: So the closer that you get to the citizen, the municipality, the province, the territory, You know, their access to those technological resources that would give them the capacity to provide those services at a level that Canadians would expect is vastly different than where the federal government is at in terms of their digital capacity.
Winter Fedyk: So what I, what I, you know, when I see you hear those stats about Canada kind of decreasing. I think that's part of the genesis of it is around these questions of jurisdiction and resource levels and how that varies so, so widely across Canada. I mean, as you mentioned, the high speed that you're gonna get in Kugluktuk, Nunavut is gonna be very different than what you're getting in downtown Toronto or Ottawa, yet that's where public policy makers are primarily, and that's their frame of reference for building these things out. Right. So those…
Luke Simcoe: Very specific locational choices Winter.
Winter Fedyk: or Vancouver, you know, some of those major centers. But, it, it is, that variability is something that I don't, I think we don't talk enough about.
Luke Simcoe: I'm a little optimistic on that front, right? If you, if you go to the digital government conferences and you, and you talk to folks, there's a, there's been a push for kind of like shared open source tooling and kind of, and a and, and a growing acknowledgement that higher orders of government might have a responsibility of building like open tools that can be repurposed at a low cost for, for governments beneath them. If you look at some of the work, you know, around common platforms that the Canadian Digital Service is doing and the Government Digital Service in the UK, the Beck Center right, is doing research about this in the United States. And so there's something kind of there when we talk about that federated kind of system of like… is it time to acknowledge that maybe it's actually the federal government of Canada's responsibility to like build like, I don't know, a vaccine registrat
Ryan Androsoff: It's really interesting, Luke. It's making me think, you know, did this whole discussion around like a federal system and the, and at least in a Canadian specific model, how it works here. You know, we often kind of think about, I mean, the way our division of powers work, a lot of the kind of like meat and potatoes on the ground services are the responsibilities of the province, things like health and education that, you know, impact people's daily lives. And, and often that kind of transaction between the feds and the provinces just comes down to writing a check. Right? And a lot of those, Federal provincial conferences are about how, what, how much money is going. And I kind of, I was really struck actually a few weeks ago in the context of the healthcare funding discussions that are happening right now between the federal government and provincial government.
Ryan Androsoff: The federal government was actually saying, listen, You know, one of the things we learned from Covid was we've got really bad health data across the country. It's very spotty, makes it tough for us to be able to do good public health responses. So one of the conditions the federal government's trying to put into new funding rounds for health is that we need to be able to get good quality data from the provinces coming forward. And there's been some pushback on it, but it makes me wonder as digital becomes so embedded in what government does, maybe the flip side is the provinces to say, listen, we're gonna actually demand: “We need open source code from the feds”. I mean, that'd be actually pretty interesting if we kind of say beyond just pure, like, monetary flows between federal and provincial governments. Maybe we start talking about data and code and technology being these like common
Ryan Androsoff: There’s a whole interesting thread, which is probably work a podcast episode in of itself, around what I might call “internal barriers” that have kind of slowed down, you know, government. All of us have worked in government or with governments, we’ve seen this. And this was actually the inspiration for a workshop that the four of us ran back in November at FWD50, which is the big digital government conference here in Canada that gets run every year up in Ottawa. And we did a workshop on identifying digital government barriers, and as part of that we used what I call the “pac-man” model of, kind of, peeling back the layers of the onion of what can sometimes slow things down. And the 30 second precede of it is there’s the old saying of culture eats strategy for breakfast, which I think we kind’ve all agree, having a culture that enables the change you want kind of trumps having a strategy d
Luke Simcoe: Well, I think it was a fascinating workshop. It was really great to connect with folks and, and something that I really enjoyed was sort of midway through, we pivoted from kind of identifying blockers to trying to sort of co-design solutions and, I'm always happier to end there than like, here's everything that's wrong. “Ugh”... you know? And so, yeah, so, you know, I think if you, if you're listening and, and or watching and you're working in this space, I, I don't think the findings will shock you. But I think this is the point, right? We've all kind of been like butting our heads against the same problems, perhaps for too long, right? So, you know, you heard lots of things about broad, you know, risk aversion and, you know, government doesn't want to take risks. You know, prefers a working service that is subpar to, you know, the risk of an improved but not working service and, you know, a
Luke Simcoe: Right. Which are sort of key, I think, to working in new digital ways. We're gonna try something, we're gonna learn about it, we're gonna see if it makes sense. If it works, we're gonna keep doing it. If it doesn't work, we're gonna do something else. And, and it's very hard. There are, there are no templates for funding proposals, you know, for that necessarily in government or at least there are a few templates, like it's definitely people are, are trying in pockets, but in general you may not get funding if you tell someone I don't know what the end product is going to be, so.
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, no, I mean, there's definitely funding processes in government prioritize certainty, even if it's false certainty, it's, they, they still want that sense that the whole thing is planned out ahead of time. And, and I would, I would just add Luke, the ability to scale up innovations that work, I think is something the government really struggles with. I mean, even where you do see pilot projects that happen, it's really rare in my, in my view, that that pilot project actually gets scaled up and, and becomes something that, or becomes mainstreamed.
Luke Simcoe: Or stops.
Ryan Androsoff: Or stops if it doesn't work, right.
Luke Simcoe: Yeah, there's a lot like, it, it the, we, there tends to be a lot of sunk costs, you know, in that “Oh, we we're putting forward an MVP or a prototype”, but it's really just the thing you were gonna do anyway. And there's no, and like people mentioned this right there, there isn't a way to kind of, we don't know how to stop doing things, right. And, and, and like, fair enough, like I understand the optics of that. Right. You know, from a very simplistic, kind of naive perspective, it sounds like you wasted money.
Ryan Androsoff: Yep. Yeah, I mean the, yeah, the, the headline test on it is tricky, right? And, and kind of that in that public media environment. Dorothy, did, you wanna pick up on any of this, including the talent piece, which I get as Luke said, I know is something that Code for Canada spends a lot of time thinking about as to how to bring in and retain talent in government.
Dorothy Eng: Yeah, I mean, just, just some background like, Code for Canada, a lot of our work revolves around this model of embedding, recruiting, you know, tech and design talent often from the private sector. These are folks who are, you know, quite skilled at their craft, at their, their digital, their digital craft, whether it's, like, software development or UX design or product management. And often these people really just wanna work on projects that have an impact, right? That are gonna benefit their communities, society as a whole. Which is really government's mandate. So we will embed fo embed these folks into teams within government to essentially approach problems and projects, and often these are technology projects, in a different way, right? So they'll, they'll bring in, you know, the modern digital tools and practices that they're, they're quite used to using and, and quite proficient in,
Ryan Androsoff: Winter, I'm curious from your perspective, anything that really jumped out for you from the, from the FWD50 workshop that we ran?
Winter Fedyk: Yeah. Oh, there's, there's just so much. It's hard to kind of nail it down. I'm thinking about, you know, so digital transformation, you know, in my experience, it, it surfaces some of those questions that have always been a tough nut to crack for any policy analyst. The first one I think is the most important one, and often we skip it over as public servants is, you know, who is the customer? Who are we serving here? And really understanding who that customer is and whether or not they even need a digital service in the first place. Right? Like the, some of those, those, those primary kind of questions, we often skip that over because we've given, we've been given direction, you will do this… so we take it and we run and we do what we're told because it's, you know, fearless advice, loyal implementation as, as kind of Luke mentioned. But, but in that process we do skip over some of those re
Luke Simcoe: That's kind of what, what stuck with me a bit, right? Is that there was a lot of unity and like shared understanding and validation around the problems. But there wasn't, like perhaps for obvious reasons, there wasn't like that same level of like clarity and alignment around solutions.
Luke Simcoe: So we're very much in a moment where we totally know what the problems are, right? And we're still throwing stuff at the wall… to see sort of like, you know, what will fix it. And I think that speaks to the value of the Pacman model, right? We like, oh, we can fix it by fixing the culture. Right? Cool. How do you even do that, right, what, how do you touch culture? What levers do you pull? Right? And, and so now I think that's why I find the incentives and, and structures piece so important cuz it's clear that culture eats strategy for breakfast hasn't worked. Right. We've, like, we've known these problems for a number of years, and it's time to move up, you know, up the model a bit and start thinking about how to incentivize the kinds of activities and behaviors, you know, that that lead to, to digital success. And where, you know, the, the structures around decision making need to change as
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah. And you know, and, and the one thing I just wanted to add, Luke, was I, I think you're a hundred percent right. The people who were in that room, you know, who kind of live and breathe digital government, I think they've got a shared understanding of what, what some of the problems are. But I'm not sure that's as true across public sector in general, let alone if you get the public involved. Right. And a little bit to some of what Winter and, and Dorothy and others were talking about. I, I actually think there's a challenge for those in the digital government community to build empathy even internally with their colleagues, you know, who may not have been as fully immersed in this, you know, cause I, cuz my, my, my theory is that, you know, 99% of people don't wake up in the morning, say, “oh, I'm gonna be obstructionist, I want to kind of stop things from, you know, happening or sto
Luke Simcoe: Yeah, a hundred percent. You can't just have the better argument, right?
Ryan Androsoff: Yes. Yeah.
Luke Simcoe: That’s something that I've noticed in the digital government space was like the strategy is delivery, right? Which is like a mantra, right? Has its limits. Cuz you were like, look, we delivered something better. Don't you all want to do this? And then people were like, well, maybe not. So there's something more, you know that that needs to happen.
Winter Fedyk: Well, and that, I think that's the secret weapon of public sector organizations versus private sector organizations. And the question of, of transformation is that we serve the public. So as long as, as that remains our north star and, and the question about why are we doing this? What value are we adding? You can always trace it back to that Canadian at the end of the, at the end of that rope, that digital chain who we’re, you know, we're doing this for. That helps you to break through a lot of those internal barriers that you might encounter because then you can say to that program analyst, I'm sorry, you have to give us this data because this is what we're trying to do and this is the value it's going to bring for this end user, this Canadian. And it also helps you then to explain to decision makers, this is why we're doing what we're doing in a way that speaks their language. Right? So t
Luke Simcoe: I think there's something really important to note based on what Winter said, and I think it gets to this, this is, this is the challenge and this is where actually it transcends the public service and begins, I think, to get in into political leadership, right? The incentives aren't always the same, like the incentives and the structures around serving the resident at the end of the day aren't always there, right? If you're optimizing for cost per transaction, that's different than optimizing for how successful someone can complete that transaction and how quickly, right? So we actually need to think about what we're measuring and how we're, what we're rewarding. Because those things are sometimes, frankly, in, in tention, right? And even at a very existential level, I think user-centered government and sort of like Westminster democracy are a little, tiny bit in tension, right? We can go to
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, I…
Luke Simcoe: you know, to talk about. But-
Ryan Androsoff: gonna say, Luke, it's not a little bit of tension. I think it's a lot of tension. I, I think this is, I think this is worth, a podcast discussion by itself. Cause I think there is tension between our existing democratic system of government, particularly our kind of very vertical Westminster system of accountability we have in Canada, and user-centered agile approaches. Right. And I, and I think the, the notion of what is the role of elected officials versus public servants in this new digital government world we're moving into, where we're trying to say public servants shouldn't just be cogs in a machine, but the flip side is public servants as individuals don't have democratic accountability in the same way elected officials do. So there's, there's a ton to kind of unwrap around this, which I think we, as a promo for future ones, we will get into it more. But yeah, go Winter.
Winter Fedyk: And the role of Canadians! Public servants, politicians, and Canadians ourselves, and we are all Canadians sitting here. We need to be explicit about what we want from our governments because they respond. Politicians will respond, but you know, we don't know what we don't know. We don't, you know, how can you want something you don't, you don't know that exists. And so it's tough for Canadians to really articulate that.
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, no, it, it's a great point. Well, and just on this theme of going forward, I think this is a great, kinda like last question I wanted to throw out to all of you. You know, we started this discussion looking backwards and we kind of talked about 25, 30 years ago, you know, kind of the origins of government in the internet era and, and where we are today. I, I'm curious to get your thoughts looking forward into the future and maybe 25 or 30 years is too far of a time horizon. Maybe let’s think 10 years, if we're kind of thinking what the world's gonna look like in the early 2030s, what's, I'd be curious just very quickly to get a sense of what's each of your kind of ambitions as to what you would kind of love to see government have having been able to accomplish in this kind of digital government realm, you know, over the next decade. Dorothy, maybe I'll start with you. You know, what,
Dorothy Eng: I spent a lot of time reading about diversity equity inclusion. So, you know, creating environments, organizations, cultures that allow like everybody to bring them full self, their, their full selves to work. And so what, and what does that mean? It means, you know, there's psychological safety and, and really inherently there's trust between, between people within an organization all working towards a common goal of, in this case, you know, better services that deliver real value to, to Canadians or end users. And I think that like, you know, when, when all, all these things that, that we've just been talking about, about like, you know, incentives, disincentives, rewards, like structure all, all the way down the culture. I think that that basis of trust is, is essentially what's lacking, right? Because it's like you look at what, what do you, what are people, what are certain groups incent
Ryan Androsoff: It's, it's, it's given me this thought of like, trust being the superpower for government transformation. So actually for, at, at the team level. Absolutely. Luke, thoughts from you on kind of what, what your ambition would be for, for 10 years from now, what government looks like?
Luke Simcoe: Just a quick plus one to like psychological safety for public servants, right? Like the mantra of the digital government movement is the small, empowered team, and you need that to happen. Right? And there's a lot, you know, that's not for as much as people say it, it's not present nearly enough I, I, I think in government. Personally, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, crib from something I hear Sid Harrell say a lot, which is like, my hope for the next 10 years is nothing new until everything works. You know, I, the thing that keeps me up at night is that we're gonna spend the, these next 10 years talking about blockchain and the metaverse and big data and AI and all this stuff, and we should be talking about that, and we ought to be thinking about how the public sector can leverage that. But those shiny things distract from the fact that the forms are still terrible, right? And so like I would love it
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah. No, and, and it's, and I think kind of getting those like plumbing issues fixed, as you said, they aren't the sexiest ones, but they are so incredibly important. But it's tough cause I think governments have to have this two track mine, cuz you do have to, I mean, I, I would argue you do have to at least be aware of these big technology trends coming down the pipe cuz then you can get blindsided with the change. But, but it's very easy to get sucked into shiny object syndrome where that's all you're doing and not fixing the issue that's been persistent for 20 years.
Luke Simcoe: And it's an, it's an incentive thing. Like it's, there's no, it makes sense that we started this podcast with Bill Clinton announcing the government's first website. That is a big, sexy announceable. You know, it checks all the boxes for the incentives for both the political class and, you know, and others. The person who designed that website got promoted to be a deputy minister. I know they don't, they don't have those exactly in the states, but you know what I mean? You know all that stuff, right? Like those, but, like, we made it a little easier to like, you know, find your health card on the website is not like a cool announceable that gets a press release. And so that's where we have some of that misalignment, I think, within incentives.
Ryan Androsoff: Yep. Yeah, great point. Winter, final word to you, with 10 years out, what's your, what's your hope, ambition for, for government in the digital era?
Winter Fedyk: I am a two track mind on this. Some days I'm a bit of a nihilist on the whole question to be really honest with you. And I wonder if a lot of this question around digital government is intellectual masturbation while the world burns. You know, and we outsource our major digital communication platform to a billionaire. And we have wars being fought with digital, digital technology that I had, you know, you can't even fathom. And yet we're not, you know, but yet we're talking about forms, which I totally a hundred percent agree with that, right? So this is where it's like I oscillate between these two wild extremes of, you know, what's the point? At this point in time anyway. Sometimes it feels like, you know, what is the point. At other times I do, I think that there's so much potential to really think through some of these fundamental questions and do some really important stuff with it, you
Dorothy Eng: Are we gonna like, take bets now and then do a recap?
Ryan Androsoff: Yeah, I was gonna say, hopefully, hopefully the, Let's Think Digital podcast is still going strong 10 years from now, and we can do, we'll, we'll do a reunion episode and see how our bets played out.
Dorothy Eng: I like that.
Ryan Androsoff: Listen, thank you so much. This has been, I mean, it's been an excellent conversation and I think the mark of any good conversation is it leaves you with more questions at the end than you had coming in, and that's certainly true from my end. So thanks so much for being part of this and no doubt we will have you back on in future episodes as we kind of peel back some of these other issues in further depth. So thanks so much everybody.
Luke Simcoe: Thanks, Ryan.
Dorothy Eng: Cool. Thank you so much.
Ryan Androsoff: So I really enjoyed that conversation. I, I think it gets to the heart of a lot of the big issues that, you know, people are thinking about or talking about, or concerned about in digital government circles around how we're actually able to take these institutions that have, in many cases, you know, based on processes and rules and ways of working that go back decades if not centuries, and be able to bring them into the modern age.
Ryan Androsoff: You know, my thesis behind a lot of this, as we've talked about, has been that for too long, you know, we've focused just around putting in place strategies. Maybe we talk about culture change a bit, but without really a clear idea about how to actually impact that. And I passionately believe that as we move into the years ahead, we're really gonna have to start focusing on the incentives and structures of our organizations and the public sector if we want to see them modernize in a substantive way.
Ryan Androsoff: And the reality is that's gonna take political will, it's gonna take public pressure. It's gonna take people having conversations like this a thousand times over to be able to, to build up the interest and ideas and momentum to be able to see these very large organizations that tend to resist change.
Ryan Androsoff: Be able to move and modernize and, and I'm hopeful that we're at the beginning of this process and that we can see in the coming decades some substantive changes around how we're actually structuring our, our public sector and government organizations to be able to be adaptable and be effective in today's reality.
Ryan Androsoff: So thanks so much for, for joining us for this conversation. A big thank you to Dorothy, Winter ,and Luke, for taking the time to, to talk today. You know, if you like what you've just heard, please, we'd love to get your help to, to get the word out. You know, please give us a review, hopefully a, hopefully a positive five star review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And be sure to, to share the link for the podcast with anybody in your network who you think might be interested. Our website for the podcast is, letsthinkdigital.ca. You can find the podcast and links to all of the podcasting sites that we're on from there. We're also up on YouTube and we're doing video versions of these podcasts as well. And so you can visit our YouTube channel, which is also Let's Think Digital on YouTube, and be able to view the, the video versions of our podcast and subscri
Ryan Androsoff: And finally, we'd love to hear your feedback. If you have ideas on topics you'd like for us to cover, on guests you'd like us to interview, or feedback on what you've heard or on the episodes, please reach out to us. You can email us at email@example.com.
Ryan Androsoff: Let's Think Digital was produced by myself, our, our podcast producer Wayne Chu, and our communications assistant Mel Han. So a big thanks to everybody who's part of the team that's pulling this together. And thank you for listening. We look forward to seeing you next time, and let's keep thinking digitally.