FWDThinking Episode 5.2: Showing What’s Possible—an extended interview with Minister Murray

Published On Sep 29, 2020

All opinions expressed in in these episodes are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the organizations for which our guests work.


Since Canada’s Minister for Digital Government, the Honourable Joyce Murray, was only able to join our regional government episode, we found time to ask her some more questions afterwards. So here’s an extra episode of FWDThinking, featuring Minister Murray.

The Minister has her work cut out for her. “Behind every policy is the delivery of a transaction or service, which in turn depends on IT,” she said. “So digital is actually at the heart of virtually everything that we offer as a government. And it’s no secret that governments, over time, have fallen behind when it comes to delivering secure, reliable, and easy-to-use digital services.”

Part of this is expectation: Abundant, ubiquitous technology has become such a part of everyday life that we’re painfully aware of having to do something in person, or by fax. “We need to catch up, to make it as easy to apply for a passport as it is to book a trip online using your phone.” One of the culprits is simply underinvestment—not just in citizen-facing services, but also in the foundational infrastructure on which government runs.

The Minister has spent the summer talking to Canadians about privacy, data sharing, and accessibility. “Transitioning the government of Canada to be more digitally enabled is not simply a matter of simply putting services online,” she said.

COVID-19 has clearly been an accelerant, and the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit made it clear that we can move quickly, as one, when necessary. “But it was an exception [to] how government often operates, and I want it to be the norm,” she said. “COVID-19 also revealed a lot of gaps in policies and services that Canadians need at a time of emergency. And so as we figure out how to build Canada back better, digital is at the heart of everything we offer, and we have to accelerate our digital transformation just as we accelerate some of our other policies and programs that we’ll be offering.”

What’s clear is that Canadians won’t want to go back to a world where they have to stand in line, take a number, send faxes, and wait on hold now that they’ve had a taste of what digital can offer.

We also discussed cross-department collaboration and a switch from department- to service-centric design, the ways tech can reduce duplication of effort by finding others tackling a similar problem; and using data and analytics to track outcomes. Ultimately, much of her job is simply showing people what’s possible with a digital mindset. “Digital principles talk about experimentation, collaboration, and iteration, and they are very much focused on putting the person at the center of everything.”