From left to right: Andrew Do, Alex Conliffe, Jesse Darling, Annalise Huynh, and Caitlin Cassie
Image credit: Annalise Huynh

An Open Letter to @hillary, Ontario’s First Chief Digital Officer

Hi, @hillary!

Welcome to Ontario! We’re so excited that you’ll be serving as Ontario’s first Chief Digital Officer. We’re actually pinching ourselves a little bit – okay, maybe a lot.


We think you’ll like it here, we too have a vibrant tech sector – and a lot to offer. We’re warm and welcoming people, who value diversity and want our people to thrive socially, culturally and economically. We also have Canada’s largest concentration of post-secondary institutions. Bright minds, cutting-edge research and the advancement of new ideas are present in every region of Ontario. And have we mentioned our natural beauty? The rugged wilderness of the North, the serenity of Algonquin Park and the vibrant fall colours are mesmerizing. These factors make Ontario an incredible place to live and create the conditions to fuel innovation, new business, and social enterprise.

Canada’s digital community has been admiring the work of 18F since at least 2014. We’ve seen how 18F transformed the way government builds and buys digital services and how these efforts have positively affected thousands of citizens. We are inspired by your “just start” mentality and your entrepreneurial approach to navigating government systems. A great deal of work has already been done by Ontario’s Digital Government team. Your appointment is an opportunity to build on this work and position Ontario as a world leader in making government work better for people.

You might be wondering who we are? We’re the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E), a policy-focused institute that is dedicated to making Canada the best place to be an innovator and entrepreneur. We:

  • Conduct research and analysis to inform innovation policy
  • Pilot and prototype our policy recommendations through projects, evaluating what works and what doesn’t, making changes, and sharing lessons widely
  • Engage citizens and stakeholders in developing better policies and services

In October 2016, BII+E co-hosted Let’s Get Digital, an event that brought together 100 awesome participants from Ontario’s Digital Government team and Toronto’s digital community. Let’s Get Digital was designed to tap the minds of the digital community to uncover what the Ontario government needed to do in order to successfully attract top talent and to inform the Digital Action Plan. We designed workshops that applied best practices in design-thinking and strategic foresight to better understand the research questions. Insights gained from convening an incredibly smart, passionate, and creative community enabled us to develop these recommendations.

We were thrilled to learn from members of the Digital Government team that our recommendations have informed their work over the last few months, and to see that several of our recommendations have been implemented. But there’s still work to be done. We believe that prioritizing the following activities within your first 100 days of joining the @ONgov team will help to advance the next phase of the Digital Government mandate.

    1. Enhance Communication Efforts: The Medium account is awesome and the team is active on social media. But the digital community wants to know more. What have been the quick wins? When will the Digital Government Action Plan be released? Are the signature projects advancing? How did these get chosen? What’s been the impact to date? What does success looks like? What do you hope to achieve this year, next year and within the next 5 years? Acknowledge where things have been difficult and share key learnings.


    1. Encourage All Public Servants to Seek Non-Traditional Professional Development Opportunities: Human-centered design, agile project management, open source! There are so many new tools and methodologies that it’s hard for anyone to keep the terminology straight, understand best practices and how to apply them. Ensuring public servants are informed about new methods in project management, collaboration and policy development is the first step to removing barriers and enabling wider digital adoption across Ontario’s Public Service. Challenge every member of Ontario’s public service to register for a new course, learn a new skill or attend a civic hacknight.


    1. Strengthen the Relationship Between Government and Ontario’s Digital Community: Ontario has a robust network of digitally savvy individuals working across sectors and industries. We’ve got thinkers and doers, teachers and students, funders and entrepreneurs who want to unleash the potential of digital technologies to improve the way public services, programs, and policies are developed and delivered. We recognize how difficult your mandate is to fulfill. But guess what? We have your back. We want to help, and we want to work with you and your team to make government work better for people. There are already some exciting partnerships, like the Policy Innovation Platform, Code for Canada and the digital outpost at Communitech. We can’t wait to build off this momentum in order to strengthen the relationship between government and Ontario’s digital community.


We’re looking forward to connecting IRL (in real life).


For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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