Digital Citizenship in 21st Century Canada
Digital citizenship means that Canadians will have the opportunity to be part of an active and engaged digital society. It means using digital services will be the norm rather than the exception, and there will be online ways to engage with the government and fellow citizens. It means solving problems through networks, partnerships, and non-linear approaches. It means understanding the power of collective strengths and leveraging the capabilities of all people to solve our greatest problems. It means embracing change.
When it comes to governments, digital has been, for so long, a dirty word. Governments were seen as slow-moving dinosaurs, and interacting with government services meant you were in for a long and suboptimal process. When it came to improving processes, there was no easy way to provide feedback and there was no public forum to share ideas.
As many businesses adopt open-source technology platforms, governments look to that software model for inspiration. The Canadian government is incorporating aspects of similar open-source government platforms, where third-party producers are invited to research and development value chains to increase the pace of change. The Canadian government is in the midst of a complete technology revolution, from service design and conceptualization to development. By adopting a digital citizenship agenda, public services will be effective and efficient for Canadians.
As the Canadian government adopts a digital citizenship agenda, we are starting to witness a change in how we engage with government services:
- Canadians are being empowered to be active digital citizens on online platforms where important policies are discussed. This will result in an ability for the government to engage with citizens in meaningful and productive dialogues.
- The sharing of information is building Canadians’ faith in their government. This transparency allows citizens to ensure that the government understands their needs and is developing services in an effective way.
- The government is becoming a hub for engagement. Facebook, for instance, is the world’s most popular social media platform, yet it does not produce content; Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, owns no inventory; Airbnb, the world’s largest hotel chain owns no real estate. The Canadian Government, too, should become a platform for others to engage. Allowing citizens to provide their expertise to the government is the fastest way to build effective digital systems. Rather than being the content creators, the government should simply provide easily accessible platforms for Canadians to contribute on.
- There will be more interaction with intermediaries. The government is adopting an open innovation agenda. By developing partnerships with third-party organizations, the government enables competition, economic growth and most importantly, innovation.
In order for digital citizenship to permeate the Canadian government, it needs acceptance by the people. We are still a long way from where we need to be in the provision of digital services to Canadians, but we are making great strides. The increasingly collaborative and interconnected approach is starting to restore Canadians’ faith in their government to provide efficient and effective services.