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					National Connecting Aboriginal Peoples in Canada Forum

                     (Draft eGovernment Discussion Paper)
1.0 Introduction
The purpose of this discussion paper is to focus upon key issues, opportunities and challenges related to
eGovernment. This is not a policy discussion, but rather an effort to frame the issues, describe some of the
views, and begin to develop a map forward and identify potential national and regional collaboration
mechanisms to further understand and resolve these issues.

Findings of the most recent Forum (Towards a National Aboriginal E             -Strategy Blueprint) suggested that
priorities identified at the national level require further discussion and consultation within regional and
community Aboriginal networks. This paper outlines several eGovernment concepts and related issues, with
an emphasis on how they relate to Aboriginal communities. This effort to frame the issues is the first step in
identifying priorities on which to focus stakeholder efforts and move forward.

2.0 eGovernment Defined
Government is an association of peoples living within a set of rules, traditions, values, expectations, and
obligations. In Canada there are up to four levels of government which include: federal; provincial/territorial;
municipal (cities, hamlets); as well as Aboriginal governments. Each of these has responsibilities, jurisdictions
and respective forms of democratic systems and processes. Key functions or services among these are:

    •    Electoral processes that ensure broad and open access to voices, opinions and people to become
    •    Scientific, regulatory and public policy research;
    •    Service delivery (health, education, economic development, cultural promotion and public
    •    Regulatory oversight to ensure a broad array of safety rules are in place; and
    •    Public policy development in which new social and economic issues are discussed, debated and
         resulting guidelines or principals are adopted.

For the purpose of this panel discussion, and the issues at hand, it is important to consider the needs of
Aboriginal users who must interact with a number of government systems at the federal, provincial, and
territorial levels with National Aboriginal Organizations, non-government Aboriginal service delivery
organizations, and with local Aboriginal governments.

eGovernment programs, which in Canada includes the $880 million Government On-Line (GOL) and citizen
engagement initiatives, endeavour to use information and communication technology (ICT) to provide
Canadians with enhanced access to more integrated services and to increase the availability of online federal
services. eGovernment is also aimed at giving Canadians the opportunity to provide input on the development
of programs, policies and services via the Internet. The ultimate goal of eGovernment is to e       nable the
Government of Canada to become connected to its citizens by making government more accessible, making
online service better and more responsive, and building confidence and trust in online transactions.

eGovernment is a tool aimed at realizing a better and more efficient administration. It is designed to improve
the development and implementation of public policies and helps the public sector deal with the conflicting
demands of delivering more and better services with fewer resources. It is intended to enable the public sector
to maintain and strengthen good governance in a knowledge society. This results in:

            a) a public sector that is open and transparent: governments that are understandable and
               accountable to the citizens;
            b) a public sector that is at the service of all: a user-centred public sector will be inclusive; and
            c) a productive public sector that delivers maximum value for taxpayers’ money: implies that
               less time is wasted and errors are reduced.

Within the Aboriginal context, citizens and governments interact within an evolving environment. New self-
government agreements, land claims and legislation continue to influence service delivery mechanisms,
transfer payments and reporting requirements. Also unique are the number of flexible and regional Aboriginal
arrangements that enable communities to govern and develop within an approach consistent with regional

In terms of service delivery, the described processes have led to a unique Aboriginal environment in which a
significantly large number of federal, provincial and territorial departments as well as aboriginal organizations
and communities deliver government programs and services to Aboriginal communities and peoples. The
challenge is to continue to optimize and ensure an evergreen “Aboriginal single window” to access these
thousands of inter-jurisdictional Aboriginal sources of information, programs and networks of individual
stakeholders or “communities of interest” in Aboriginal economic development, learning, cultural development,
health, etc.

These new online tools can also support increased inter-governmental collaboration in areas such as federal,
provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal leaders’ research and policy development and creating new opportunities
for “virtual communities of Aboriginal policy development” or more practical “virtual Aboriginal stakeholder
communities of interest.”

eGovernment is simply a new way of delivering or processing these services more widely, transparently, and
quickly. In reality, it s a means by which to bring government processes closer to people’s communities,
homes and businesses, rather than requiring citizens to travel to government buildings or related regional
government centres.

Therefore, the further a person or community is from a government service centre, the greater the beneficial
impact of eGovernment. Historically, those living in urban or large rural centres enjoyed a tremendous
advantage in more easily or cost-effectively accessing these services or contributing to public policy
development and consultation processes (e.g. town hall meetings and public opinion surveys or focus testing).
3.0 Moving Forward
Through last year’s National Connecting Indigenous Peoples Forum (eGovernment panel discussion) a
number of challenges and opportunities for forward momentum were identified. These were: electoral/
democratic process; government information, program service delivery, and paper reporting burden; public
policy development and citizen engagement; and community eGov ernment capacity.

3.1 Electoral/Democratic process

Within Canada’s Aboriginal political landscape there a large number of responsible organizations with various
mandates and service delivery responsibilities. Each also has their own unique electoral process that reflects
their circumstances, values, and community locations (i.e., remote vs. southern). These can be generally
grouped as:

    •    The federal government
    •    Provincial and territorial governments
    •    National Aboriginal political organizations
    •    Regional Aboriginal political organizations
    •    First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities
    •    Non-government Aboriginal service delivery organizations
    •    Media

All of these levels of government and non-government organizations must at some point elect officials. To do
so requires communicating proposed ideas, policies and priorities and receiving feedback from Aboriginal
communities. Unfortunately, it is extremely costly to visit these communities and, in almost all cases, difficult to
return to the same community more than once during a campaign. This serves to limit campaigning
effectiveness and has implications for equity when it comes to the quality of the electoral process. These and
other cost-related factors significantly constrain the potential field of candidates as well as the ability and
effectiveness of policymakers once elected.

Currently, many of these representatives are using new online tools such as electronic polling, video
messaging, and real-time, online town halls to discuss issues and seek input from Aboriginal communities and
peoples. However, online electoral technologies and their adoption are still in their infancy.

Campaigning and communicating new policy directions and options to remote Aboriginal communities is
prohibitively expensive, affecting the ability to convey key messages broadly, as well as hindering engagement
in the political process.

The electoral process has two different, but related, facets: 1) the casting of a ballot and 2) campaigning. The
Internet and related technologies hold promise for both these facets. The more immediate challenge, however,
lies in enhancing the democratic process via improving the ability of parties and representatives to campaign.
Issues to consider:

    •    Ensuring more equitable access to the democratic process via party campaigning requires sustained
         funding of representatives.
    •    New broadband and inter-active technologies such as Video over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will expand
         opportunities for communications and reduce the cost for individuals to reach many of these
    •    Remote online voting and voter registration technologies would encourage greater electoral and
         democratic participation.

3.2 Government information, program service delivery, and reporting

With respect to online Aboriginal information and service delivery a number of challenges were identified.
Significant online Aboriginal system developments were underway through major Government On-line (GOL)
and related departmental investments such as:

    •    The single national Aboriginal window - Aboriginal Canada Portal
    •    INAC’s First Nations and Inuit Transfer Payment System and Indian Registration System;
    •    Health Canada’s Aboriginal Health Network; and
    •    HRSD’s Aboriginal Human Resource Development Network.

The challenge lies in finding Aboriginal-specific information, programs and services across dozens of
departments, hundreds of programs, provinces, territories, National Aboriginal organizations, non-government
Aboriginal service delivery organizations and Aboriginal communities themselves.

Recent reports describing the paper reporting burden on Aboriginal communities are leading to renewed
federal efforts to develop more integrated approaches. In other words, an Aboriginal community -centric
approach to government and non-government information-gathering is leading to improved service and
program delivery, and streamlined program reporting requirements.

Also noted was the growing proliferation of community based systems to better manage resources, measure
outcomes and enable more effective g      overnance decisions. These local community management systems
were facing a number of challenges integrating efficiently with major government reporting systems. This, then,
resulted in communities carrying the burden of maintaining two parallel administrative and reporting systems.

Issues to consider:

    •    Enhancing the single window of Aboriginal information to including on-line programs, reporting and
         online user support.
    •    Social and economic importance of equitable access to general and Aboriginal-focused information
         and services.
    •    Aboriginal information, program and service delivery is unique due to features such as government-
         to-Aboriginal government relations and numerous third party aboriginal service delivery organizations.
    •    Customized single-window technology to enable rapid access and improved ease of navigation
         through federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal organization and community information and
    •    The need for streamlined inter-departmental Aboriginal program reporting systems.
    •    The need for community -based, holistic, and comprehensive systems that meet local community
         development requirements.
    •    The opportunity for developing and linking national, regional, and local networks of Aboriginal
         (government and non-government) stakeholders to share information, best practices, opportunities,
         and challenges.
    •    The need for cost-effective, industry-standard software approaches to facilitate inter-governmental
         data exchange.
    •    The need to support remote aboriginal communities’ use of government and non-government
         information and services with advanced electronic support tools (1-800, e-learning courseware,
         video/person like service).

3.3 Public policy development and citizen engagement

There a number of voices that must be heard, considered and consulted in the development of national,
regional and aboriginal specific policies. While traditionally challenging, given the remoteness of Aboriginal
communities, the Internet will enable organizations to directly and meaningfully gather the input of Aboriginal
peoples as part of the public policy development process.

However, public legitimacy requires transparency, civil engagement, and an effort to seek out online public
opinion followed with a commitment to report back to respondents. Canada is a world leader in this area – how
can this connectivity commitment be applied to specialized and remote populations?

Finally, to ensure acceptable representation and a credible methodology, measures must be put in place to
ensure that connectivity is widely and equitably accessible. Online engagement results should also be
validated by traditional public (person and community) opinion and focus testing.

For all stakeholders and citizens, eGovernment is un-chartered territory. There are no clear rules or well-
established methodologies by which to implement these opportunities. In addition, many stakeholders are
restricted or constrained by institutional processes that better reflect an analogue world of collecting and
processing information and opinions. There continues to be a tendency to replicate existing paper processes
and departmental hierarchal consultation and decision making.

While eGovernment processes can significantly enhance the democratic, public policy, and service delivery
process, it cannot improve or resolve areas of disagreement or debate. Within this context, it is important to
use, test, and learn how best to apply these new electronic tools. In the least, these tools can be used to bring
together people to help establish and strengthen national and regional networks of Aboriginal stakeholder

Issues to consider:

    •    Engagement research says partnerships between stakeholders with perceived competing interests
         enhance the credibility of engagement exercises.
             o This hinges on the ability and willingness of stakeholders involved in Aboriginal issues to
                 form partnerships.
    •    Methodologically, online engagement can take a number of forms with respect to scope, size,
         complexity, and level of involvement of participants.
             o An appropriate mix of e-engagement characteristics that are most appropriate to Aboriginal
                 people is required.

    •    The promise of citizen engagement creates heightened expectations around outcomes. The failure to
         demonstrate the value of gathering citizen input by affecting changes at the policy and program level
         could lead to an increasingly sceptical public and an abandoning of any hope of ever exerting an
         appropriate level of influence on public issues of importance.
             o Issues need to be identified that have the potential for being meaningfully informed by input
                  gathered via citizen engagement.

    •    The critical importance of the reducing the digital divide in remote Aboriginal communities to ensure
         equitable access to eGovernment services and future on-line public policy development a citizen
         engagement opportunities.
              o Until such time, online citizen engagement results will have to be validated through more
                   traditional techniques.

3.4 Community eGovernment capacity

These concepts and approaches clearly underline the importance of levels of government coming together
somewhere in the middle. To have a top-down approach will not work. Clearly, national leadership is required.
However, equally important for success is the need for inter-jurisdictional participation as well as significant
community engagement. Unlike major departments, however, few communities possess the required
information and technology capacity to properly engage in these developments. Past national forums have
suggested that communities or tribal councils should posses a Chief Information Officer to properly assess
community requirements, evolving technologies and sophisticated information management and exchange

Issues to consider:

    •    Would this capacity be required in each community or at a higher level of Aboriginal organization or
    •    How do we build this capacity? Is there a need for an existing or new association to encourage
    •    Could the private sector assist in this regard?
4.0 Questions to Consider
Q1. Are you comfortable with the eGovernment overview? Do the four key categories (electoral processes;
Government services and information; policy development; and community eGovernment capacity) seem like
a good departure in defining eGovernment?

Q2. What steps forward do you propose for “Electoral/Democratic processes” and what are the potential
eGovernment contributions, role and responsibilities of the:
            a) Aboriginal communities
            b) National Aboriginal Organizations
            c) Regional Aboriginal organizations
            d) provincial and territorial governments
            e) federal government departments
            f) media
            g) private sector

Q3. What steps forward do you propose for “Government information and program service delivery and
reporting” and what are the potential eGovernment contributions, role and responsibilities of the:
            a) Aboriginal communities
            b) National Aboriginal Organizations
            c) Regional Aboriginal organizations
            d) provincial and territorial governments
            e) federal government departments
            f) media
            g) private sector

Q4. What steps forward do you propose for “Public policy development and citizen engagement” and what
are the potential eGovernment contributions, role and responsibilities of the:
               a) Aboriginal communities
               b) National Aboriginal Organizations
               c) Regional Aboriginal organizations
               d) provincial and territorial governments
               e) federal government departments
               f) media
               g) private sector

Q5. What steps forward do you propose for “Community eGovernment capacity” and what are the potential
eGovernment contributions, role and responsibilities of the:
            a) Aboriginal communities
            b) National Aboriginal Organizations
            c) Regional Aboriginal organizations
            d) provincial and territorial governments
            e) federal government departments
            f) media
            g) private sector
Q6. Should and how do we continue developing these ideas and extending the partnership?

Q7. Do you have any further suggestions?
Sector            Organization       Name                City/Comm     Phone
Federal           TB/HRSD            B. MacDonald        Ottawa
                  INAC/ACP           I. MacArthur        Ottawa
                  INAC/comp.         ?                   Ottawa
                  Elections          ?                   Ottawa
NAO / NGO         ITK                C. Clark            Ottawa
                  AFN                M. Dagenais         Ottawa
                  AFOA               R. Santos           Ottawa
Provincial,       Nova Scotia        J. Hepworth         Nova Scotia
Regional Office   BC                 ?                   BC
or Tri-Partite    Quebec             Richard or Allain   Quebec
organizations.    Alberta            Hamish MacAulay
Communities       BC                 Gwen Phillips
                  Alberta Treaty 7   B. Robb
                  Ontario            S. Fox Radulovich

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