Digital Governance

Digital governance is the central challenge facing governing institutions and societies in the coming decades where no one owns information, power is dispersed and authority and accountability need to be re-conceived. What is digital governance and why is digital a governance issue? Westminster parliamentary democracy is widely credited with a high capacity to adapt to societal evolution. Its ability to adapt to the realities of a digital society is putting this claim to the test. Westminster governments were never designed with the digital era in mind.

Two forces – digital and governance – are meeting like tectonic plates, shifting the landscape and giving rise to new peaks and valleys around key governance questions that all Canadians need to be concerned about: Who has real power? How should decisions be made? How can all players make their voices heard and ensure that account is rendered?

Click here for the final reports from the first and second annual Digital Governance Forums

2015 Digital Governance Forum Report
2016 Digital Governance Forum Report


The Digital Governance Partnership was established by nine academic and public interest organizations with the support of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Carleton UniversityDalhousieUniversity, Ryerson University, the University of Regina, the Institute on Governance (IOG)OCAD University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, and the University of Victoria have come together to build an applied digital governance research network. This partnership is exploring the historic challenges and opportunities facing governing institutions in the digital era.

Through its multi-year research and engagement program, the Digital Governance Partnership is creating a network equipped to understand the governance challenges of the digital era and to help governing institutions meet them. Key collaborating institutions include governing institutions from multiple levels of government, non-profit and civil society organizations, and private sector supporters – and the partnership is expanding.

2016-2017 Dialogue Series

Framing Innovation: Westminster 2.0 in the Digital Age

In an increasingly digital world, the task ahead for Canada’s public institutions is to evolve the Westminster system, both its political and administrative institutions, in a context of increased public expectations for speed, responsiveness and representativeness, and a renewed demand for improved outcomes that preserve and advance the public good.

The Digital Governance Partnership research and engagement theme for 2016-2017 is Framing Innovation: Westminster 2.0 in a Digital Age.  For more information click here.

Digital Governance Forum 2016
Panelists:  Dan Gardner, Kathleen Monk, Tim Powers  Moderator: Althia Raj

Panelists: Dan Gardner, Kathleen Monk, Tim Powers Moderator: Althia Raj

Co-organized by the Institute on Governance and the Centre for Public Impact, and supported by its partner institutions, the second annual Digital Governance Forum brought together citizens, elected officials, academics, public servants, and industry leaders over the course of two days to discuss these and related questions.

This year’s forum focused on ‘Democratic Governance in a Networked Age’, exploring how digital culture provides new governance opportunities for Westminster democracies like Canada’s, enabling the development of public institutions that are more open, collaborative, responsive and inclusive. The forum’s panels generated follow-on questions and observations on the state of practice and future directions, as well as concrete, practical recommendations aimed at ensuring that our governing institutions have the competencies and expertise they need to meet changing citizen expectations and to deliver results quickly and effectively.

We discussed new and innovative ways to: advise leaders; engage citizens and stakeholders; build new cultures in our institutions and polity; define collective interests; share, lever and protect data; and understand how Westminster governance is now working and could work in the digital era.

We invite you to watch highlights from the forum as well as behind the scenes video interviews and podcasts from some of our speakers. We will be posting videos, podcasts and articles from the Forum over the next month and encourage you to check back or follow us on twitter @IOGca.

Please check back as we will be adding more links including highlights from the Forum as well as behind the scenes interviews!

Final Report 2016

Digital Governance Forum 2015
201529Jan_0162 IoG DigFor

Moderator: Evan Soloman. Panellists: Patrice Dutil, Hon. Konrad von Finckenstein, Lawrence Hanson, Colin McKay

At the Digital Governance Forum, we sought input from a range of stakeholders – citizens, elected officials, academics, public servants, and industry leaders – to shape the direction of our activities and expand our network across five applied domains: democratic governance, policy-making, service delivery, regulation, and risk and accountability.

The Forum’s participants explored issues of information superabundance, personal data collection, hyper-accountability, the disintermediation of governing institutions, the appearance of new governance actors, the challenges of multi-level governance, and the proliferation of multi-sector delivery models. Its panels generated important follow-on questions, observations on the state of practice and future directions. The forum represented a major milestone for the project and its proceedings helped bring the project’s research themes into sharper focus.

You can consult the Forum’s program retrospectively, or watch any of the session proceedings on CPAC:

Final Report 2015

Digital Governance in Conversation


Matthew Mendelsohn- Results & Delivery in a Digital Context

Emerging Research Priorities

As the partnership continues to evolve, the IOG is focusing its research efforts on three specific domains:

Service Delivery

We have moved from the era of introducing citizen satisfaction surveys to one where new service delivery models have dramatically increased citizen expectations about the quality and delivery of public services, emphasizing lower costs, higher quality, and customization. This raises fundamental questions about equity, social justice, and the public good for evenly serving all citizens.


Information is now digital, mobile, increasingly open, and superabundant. Information is the new oil – a commodity and a currency that affects all the transactions it mediates and all the processes it powers. Yet in organizations it tends to be managed in silos as a reflection of organizational power structures and controls. In an age of information superabundance and resource scarcity, changing social patterns of behaviour and attitudes towards information use and sharing demand that we revisit traditional approaches. This applies as much within jurisdictions as it does between them, in a world where governing institutions are increasingly required to navigate the inter-jurisdictional and international dimensions of their areas of responsibility. The alternatives are: missed opportunities for new data uses, established interests cementing current practices in the face of pressure for change, and regulatory frameworks tailored to a society and an age that no longer exist.

Oversight and Accountability

Westminster parliamentary democracy is widely credited with a high capacity to adapt to societal evolution. Its ability to adapt to the realities of a digital society is putting this claim to the test. A digital society is not simply a technologically savvy one, but one that is permeated by digital culture, where expectations, interactions, needs, even the concept of citizenship may be shifting. The emergence of a digital society raises fundamental questions concerning the evolution of governance roles, responsibilities and practices, state-citizen interfaces and the nature of ministerial accountability. This applies especially strongly to nested governance systems like Canada’s, where the inter-jurisdictional dimensions of governance may pose unique challenges, be it at the level of federal, provincial, and municipal interfaces, in the context of First Nations governance, or in the wider global and international setting.

Support our Research

Given the nature of the challenges and their scope, the partnership’s activities aim to have national impact and visibility, providing evidence based research and engaging Canadians to develop practical solutions.

Being successful in this endeavour requires the partnership’s founding members to expand the partnership, take on additional expertise and gather additional resources. If you would like to support our work or become a partner, please contact us.

Contact Us

  • Davide Cargnello

    Chief Research Officer
    613-562-0090 ext. 236

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