By Ryan Androsoff, Director of Digital Governance, IOG
The Speech from the Throne was quite interesting from the perspective of what it revealed about the federal government’s evolving “digital agenda” – something that has become more important than ever in the age of COVID! Here are a few highlights:
The commitment to making “generational investments” in legacy IT systems and service modernization was of great interest. The devil of course will be in the details and those working in the service delivery and IT realm in government will be watching for what those details are in the future fiscal update or budget. However, the fact that the Throne Speech put down a marker that progress on modernizing IT and service delivery will include significant investment is very notable. Canada was last viewed as a world leader in what was then being called “e-government” in the early 2000s, and that came after an investment of $880 Million over the five-year long Government Online initiative. The challenge of modernizing the federal government’s digital service delivery capacity today will likely need to be of a similar order of magnitude.
The announcement of CRA moving to providing automatic tax filing may seem like a small detail, but it is a very positive one. This will put us in good company with leading digital nations that have already been doing this for years. Most tax returns are simple & predictable, and the reverse onus approach is a win-win for citizens and government.
The commitment to accelerating high-speed internet connectivity efforts via the Universal Broadband Fund is badly needed as COVID has shown just how important connectivity is to modern life, and has put focus on the very real inequities of internet access across Canada – particularly in rural, remote, and indigenous communities.
There were also some initiatives in the speech with regards to greater regulation of tech companies in the context of combatting online hate, tax avoidance by “digital giants”, and inequities around revenue sharing by online platforms with content producers
Finally, it was notable to that these topics were mentioned at all. Normally these are issues that are relegated to the fine print of budgets or legislation. This Speech from the Throne is yet another example of how tech & digital are becoming more prominent in this (or any) government’s agenda.