Jos Creese and I were hosted by MISA-Ontario at their Annual Conference in Niagara .
Jos was representing Socitm at the Conference, which was also providing the
venue for the annual international meeting of the LOLA (Linked Organisation for
Local Authority ICT Societies) - our partner associations.
part, there were a number of reasons to attend:
ICT policy drivers, priorities and initiatives in the countries represented by
the partner associations.
a critical comparison of these policies and initiatives.
all this would be designed to challenge and support the development of Socitm's
local public services perspective on the UK government's emerging ICT strategy.
some reflections on the conference. It was
fascinating to see how Canada has transformed public services, not the least
reason being that the new Coalition Government regularly cites Canada as a
shining example. Several things struck both Jos and myself:
- There is
greater local autonomy in public services than is the case in the UK.
- The level
of regulation and national performance measures used to control and audit local
delivery is much lower.
- With the
exception of the major cities, they have a two tier system very similar to the traditional
UK model; we found that this causes few, if any, problems for the CIOs at the
- They have
the same challenges as the UK in making IT worker harder to deliver
transformation and openness; in some areas they are ahead (e.g. shared
services) and in some areas we are ahead (e.g. open government).
So, what of
the lead up to the conference, and the conference itself?
C Call 311
D Doing IT differently
A MISA - Ontario
Call 311 - " Toronto at your service" - non-emergency contact
from the airport, I joined the international delegates in Downtown Toronto, to
be hosted by Stephen Wong at the Toronto 311 Centre. His was a fascinating story of a City Regional
Authority formed by amalgamation of the former Region and 5 lower tier
municipalities, 50,000 staff (36,000 City and 14,000 Boards, Agencies,
Commissions) with a Cdn$9bn p.a. operating budget. The 311 project, championed
by the Mayor, started in 2004 comprises a contact centre and the Toronto 311 website with staff of anything up to 120 at busy
Upon my return to the UK, this case study
has been of interest to The Cabinet Office for the opportunities
presented by the concept of the single non-emergency number, in particular for rationalisation
of contact centres and telephone numbers and the resulting efficiency savings.
LOLA - Linked Organisation of Local Authority
after our 311 visit, the international delegates met to discuss the
opportunities for collaboration. I facilitated a discussion about our proposal
for a project to identify and compare the ICT priorities and experiences in
each of our countries. The project received unanimous support. We agreed a
timetable for its execution and completion in 2010. Other topics included a
refresh of the LOLA website, use of collaboration tools, participation in an EU-funded
conference in Belgium in December 2010, international webinars, reducing carbon
emissions from desktop infrastructure, and a proposed project on shared
Later in the
MISA Conference, the international delegates presented selected aspects of ICT activity
in their respective countries. Readers may be interested in sunshinereview.org, which
assesses the transparency of US States, Counties and School Boards against a range
of criteria. Jos gave an update on the work of SOCITM and UK government
priorities for IT. He also had a chance
to talk with the mayor of Niagara about political developments in Ontario and
the way public services are working with the private sector now.
awards given to organizations, the winner of MISA-Ontario's first-ever
International Excellence in Municipal Systems Award was the national municipal
IT organization of New Zealand, ALGIM, for its Information Management Toolkit.
The Conference location was a spectacular
one set in a hotel adjacent to the famous Falls. The Hotel itself provided an
excellent venue, facilitated by a team from the host municipality of Niagara.
An interesting departure from our UK experience was that breakfast was served
in the main conference room which was laid out cafe style with the exhibition
stands at either side. This provided a great opportunity for networking.
Transparency - Open Government and Web 2.0
was a major theme running through the conference. David
Eaves - "citizen, blogger and activist" - delivered a challenging keynote,
citing experience in the City of Vancouver, amongst many other examples. This
was followed by a panel debate in which Jos gave a short presentation on open government,
which was particularly well-received.
Doing IT differently
cloud computing and measuring the value of IT provided some interesting perspectives
on areas that lie at the heart of Socitm's priority policy areas. The latter
was particularly pertinent given the work underway with Socitm Insight/Benchmarking
to develop some useful guidelines for measuring the value contributed by IT to
local public services.
MISA - Municipal Information Systems
Ontario has a history that predates Socitm, having been formed in 1971. I
attended a session where their new Corporate Strategy was presented. There were
striking parallels with Socitm, as well as some potential ideas on the
commercial side that might transfer to the UK and elsewhere watch this space!
Of particular note is the number of software agreements that have been
negotiated with suppliers (and the lack of EU constraints!).
this was an excellent conference with plenty of opportunities for exchange of
ideas. Out thanks go to our Canadian hosts who were unstinting in their
attention to our programme and to our well-being. Our congratulations go to our lead host Harry Turnbull,
who won two awards during the course of the conference.
of what is really happening in Canada will lend credibility to Socitm in
responding to those voices in the UK who have not visited, but are quoting
Canada as an example of best practice. Indeed, some of the experiences of
cities such as Edmonton, Regina
and Vancouver in dealing with significant budget shortfalls are particularly relevant.