Let’s Talk About A Digital Canada

AEBC Advocacy In The Digital Age

  • Event: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Annual General Meeting
  • Theme: Our Journey, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
  • Location: The Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel, 6083 McKay Avenue, Burnaby, BC, V5H 2W7
  • Date: April 29, 2018
  • Time: 10:45AM to 11:30AM PST

Learning Objective

  1. Social Change And The Digital Evolution.
  2. The Canadian Digital Government Strategy.
  3. AEBC Dialog On The Role Of Advocacy In The Digital Age.

Social Change And The Digital Evolution

There has never been a more promising time to be involved in social change. The digital revolution and the social rights movement are disrupting the traditional business models, and having an impact on the way we interact with machines and each other. The driving forces behind rapid societal changes are shaping cultural attitudes and business strategies. The digital economy is driving economic prosperity through increased productivity and market growth, but the ability to use new emerging technologies is currently at the heart of social inclusion, with those excluded being left out of many work, entertainment, communication, healthcare and social benefits. Unfortunately, much of the digital communication systems being implement throughout Canadian organizations are inaccessible to blind and deaf Canadians.

In recent years, there has been an important paradigm shift affecting the development of new legislation and policies concerning persons with disabilities,
from segregation to integration,
from institutionalization to mainstreaming,
from the medical model of disability being viewed as a condition to be treated, to the social model of disability focusing on the removal of disabling barriers in the environment that hinder full participation in society.
In response governments around the world are legislating Digital Accessibility Laws. In 2005, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada, and a world leader in implementing proactive, enforceable, compliance-based accessibility legislation. The government of Canada currently in the process of creating new federal accessibility legislation.


  1. In the 1960’s we measured people ability by their IQ, Intelligence.
  2. In the 1970’s the women’s movement promoted EQ, Emotional Intelligence for relationships and valuing people in the workplace.
  3. In the 1980’s a shrinking world, increased air travel and intercontinental telecommunications, introduced SQ, Social Intelligence for understanding and acceptance of differing values and perspectives.
  4. In the 1990’s governments around the world started legislating standards and policies for PQ, Political correctness in speech and behaviour.
  5. In the past decade, we shifted toward CQ, Cultural Intelligence to engage with people around the world, through employee diversity groups.
  6. This decade may be known as the DQ era, Digital Intelligence through the the merging of people and machines.

Artificial intelligence

The Artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is well underway, and recent significant milestones show that AI can improve the lives of people with disabilities. In early 2016
Facebook released its groundbreaking automatic alternative text feature that describes images to blind and visually impaired people;
Apple implemented facial recognition as the new way to unlock the next generation of iPhones; and
Google launched its Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system, which removes the language barriers by automatically translating web content.

Human And Machine Relationship

The emerging Digital Business has shifted the relationship between man and machine in three primary areas that will highlight the idea of human-machine cooperation and economic growth.

  1. Transparent Interfaces:
    A blend of voice, body, and object positioning capabilities will make it possible for users to interact with data, software applications, and their surrounding environments. Although such functionality will develop further in the coming years, it can already make interfaces seem much more natural. Interface devices can be made more transparent through software that adapts control systems to user needs. Designers will leverage technology and focus on developing systems that can adapt to user behavior, instead of adapting user behavior to the system.
  2. Ubiquitous Access:
    Much like we enjoy with mobile devices today, in the future Digital Reality will provide an always on connection to the Internet or to the enterprise networks, but instead of reaching into our pocket for our phones, we will have wearable digital gear. Advances in digital technology design is giving rise to a new generation of comfortable, self-contained digital devices free of tethering wires and bulky battery packs. Ubiquitous Access represents the ability for a cloud service to be widely accessible and support a range of devices, transport protocols, interfaces, and security technologies. To enable this level of access generally requires that the cloud service architecture be tailored to the particular needs of different cloud service consumers.
  3. Adaptive levels of Engagement:
    In the near future contextual capabilities will engage data feeds to user preferences, location, and activities, for a more intuitive interface. As the ways in which we interact with technology evolve, new adaptive levels of engagement will extend beyond the tapping of icons under glass.

the Canadian Digital Government Strategy

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Government of Canada Strategic Plan for Information Management and Information Technology (IM-IT) has identified several challenges.

Government Of Canada Challenges

The Government of Canada is made up of more than 100 organizations that deliver a broad range of programs and services to individuals and businesses in Canada and abroad. In each Government department, the Information Management and Information Technology (IM-IT) is operated separately and focuses on fulfilling the individual mandate of the department. This siloed approach continues to lead to complex, time-consuming and costly client interactions with government:

  1. Inefficiencies through duplication of platforms,
  2. Incompatibility of systems and data models,
  3. Inconsistent service delivery and standards,
  4. Lack of information sharing,
  5. Inability to find information, and
  6. Other factors.

Government IM-IT Key Drivers

  1. Citizens’ expectations,
  2. Workplace and workforce evolution,
  3. Privacy and security,
  4. The enterprise approach, and
  5. Information Management and Information Technology sustainability and aging Technologies.

Citizen And Employee Expectations

Citizens expect their government to be open, transparent and accountable. They also expect their government to deliver real and meaningful results fairly, efficiently and responsibly. Canadians want and deserve programs and services that provide the best experience for them, when and where they need it, and in a client-centred manner.

Employees expect to have modern and effective tools that are interconnected, intuitive and accessible when and where they need them. The Government cannot properly serve Canadians if its public service has outdated tools. Citizens and employees are supported by updated business processes to make day-to-day work efficient and add value to their efforts. They want to be part of a networked workforce and want an experience that is open, inclusive, nimble and optimized for digital. Employees in a modern workplace need digital tools that promote collaboration, information sharing and increased productivity, and that are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

  1. Services are simple and easy to access and use; services are essentially user centric,
  2. Data is shared and reused where appropriate,
  3. Interactions with government are consistent,
  4. There are connections across jurisdictions (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal) where it makes sense, and
  5. Services are digitally enabled and seamless.

Over the last few years, the Government of Canada has taken the first steps to shift toward an enterprise approach to managing information, data, technology and security. This direction supports priorities identified in recent budgets, ministers’ mandate letters, reports and audits while responding to key drivers. This Strategic Plan identifies foundational priorities and activities that are required in order to modernize service delivery and improve sustainability for service provider departments such as Shared Services Canada (SSC) and the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Progress toward achieving the four strategic goals outlined in this Strategic Plan will be tracked, evaluated and reported.

Strategic Goals

  1. Service,
  2. Value,
  3. Security, and
  4. Agility.


Adopting an enterprise approach requires sound governance structures that support clear and informed decision making. The Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Minister Committees on Enterprise Priorities and Planning (CEPP) will be the governance, priority setting and oversight bodies for all Government of Canada Information Management and Information Technology investments, and also provide oversight on Shared Services Canada (SSC) service delivery.

Effectively addressing these expectations and challenges will require new ideas and approaches. Departmental CIO’s and their departments will increasingly be working with peers in provincial and municipal jurisdictions, academia, and the private sector through existing and new forums such as:

  1. The Public Sector Chief Information Officer Council,
  2. The Open Government Partnership,
  3. Supporting sub-committees and working groups, and
  4. The Digital Advisory Board (wich is to seek strategic and informal advice on digital government transformation from experts in the public and private sector, and can be reached by email at open-ouvert@tbs-sct.gc.ca).

TBS Responsibilities

  1. Clearly define the key roles of business owner, service provider and client,
  2. Clarify with the CIO Council and the Enterprise Architecture Review Board how existing governance structures will be integrated into the Information Management governance structure,
  3. Determine an appropriate decision-making process,
  4. See that departments avoid duplication and unnecessary overlap, and
  5. Provide a secure platform called GCCollab to:
    • Share opinions, information and analyses,
    • Collaborate with external partners, academia, businesses, other governments and citizens, and
    • Support an array of functions such as document sharing, co-authoring, assigning tasks, organizing meetings and holding discussions.

AEBC Dialog On The Role Of Advocacy In The Digital Age

The Open Government strategy is about equipping citizens to fully participate in democracy. Commitments describe how government can provide better access to information, data and opportunities to participate in policy making. In order to remain relevant in the digital era, the Government of Canada must move away from its traditional siloed and complex web of rules. Citizens today have high expectations of government. These expectations are driven by their interactions with a more digitally sophisticated private sector. Government IT policies have not kept pace with this evolving landscape and do not reflect current realities or future strategic direction.
What does open government mean to you?
What is, or is not, working well for you?
How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent despite a disability?

Discussion Questions

  1. Open Collaboration:
    Access to online information and services is a critical requirement for successful inclusion in society, but does Open Collaboration mean the same thing as Inclusive Collaboration? In open collaboration anyone can contribute and anyone can freely partake in the sharing and interacting of the group activities, but only if the mode of communications and the format of interaction processes are accessible to all. what are the open access barriers preventing Canadians with vision loss from full participation in the Canadian Digital Services engagement process?
  2. Enabling Productivity:
    Emerging technologies, such as desktop virtualization and cloud software, enable Canadians to work remotely in secure and accessible ways. many Canadians are choosing remote work to avoid traffic, reduce travel expenses, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and to increase productivity. With collaboration taking place within the social media framework and with engagement software tools that are inaccessible to blind users, the productivity challenges are overwhelming. How can the Canadian Digital Service strategy be more inclusive with accessibility solutions to achieve productivity gains for Canadians with vision loss?
  3. Positive Action:
    The Government of Canada, across all levels of operations, must adjust more quickly to rapid digital communication developments and the accessibility needs in our society. What innovative approaches does the government need to take to enhance collaboration with blind Canadians?

Our Role As Advocates In The Digital Age

  1. We need greater participation of skilled blind professionals in the decision making process of government strategies that will build a more prosperous Canada.
  2. We need an integrated accessibility growth strategy that link the Ministries of Innovation, Employment, Infrastructure, and Persons With Disabilities.
  3. We need competent and well informed leaders, who understand the impact of digital communications on the quality of life for all Canadians.
  4. We need a prosperity strategy that maximizes the skills of disabled Canadians, and promotes greater inclusion.
  5. We need to enable Canadian innovators by stimulating creativity, and enable disabled Canadians by getting smart technologies into their hands as soon as possible.

Canadian Digital Design Principles

The Canadian Digital Service has developed a set of principles to guide digital development in the Government of Canada. These principles, based on international best practices and consultation feedback, will shape how the government manages information, technology innovation, and provide digital services.

  1. Understand users and their needs. Start with user needs and build for them, and with them. Conduct ongoing testing with users. Do the hard work so that they don’t have to.
  2. Iterate and improve frequently. Develop in an agile manner using alpha, beta and live phases. Test end-to-end and continuously improve in response to user feedback. Test early and often.
  3. Build the right team. Create and empower multidisciplinary teams, linking policy with delivery.
  4. Build a service-oriented culture. Lead and implement a team and departmental culture focused on users.
  5. Work in the open. Share and collaborate in the open, plan to make data open from the start.
  6. Integrate proportionate security and privacy from the outset. Consider business context. Manage risks.
  7. Build in an open and interoperable way. Give equal consideration for open source. Use open standards. Build in an interoperable and reusable way.
  8. Use the right tools for the job. Use common government solutions and platforms. Build cloud first.
  9. Design and deliver transparent and ethical services. Be open and transparent in the use of automated systems and comply with ethical guidelines.
  10. Be inclusive and provide support for those who need it. Build in inclusiveness, official languages, and accessibility by design.
  11. Know your data. Manage data in line with standards. Implement analytical tools and use the data you collect.
  12. Be accountable to Canadians. Define user-centred performance metrics. Publish real time data.
  13. Develop open and innovative partnerships. Recognize that an organization can’t have all the best ideas. Create partnerships and collaborate.
  14. Spend money wisely. Enter into sensible contracts and comply with procurement standards.
  15. Test services with the Deputy Minister and/or Minister. Test all new public-facing services with the Deputy Minister and/or Minister responsible.