Luke Simcoe
Jul 19 · 3 min read

We’d like to introduce you to some of the awesome humans who will be joining us at the Code for Canada Showcase in Ottawa on July 24 and Edmonton on July 29. They’re at the forefront of civic tech and digital government in Canada (and around the world) and they’ll be sharing their learnings, experiences and wisdom with our audience. If you’d like to be there when they do, it’s not too late to get tickets!

As the “Chief Wrangler” for the Ontario Government’s Digital First Assessment program, Kelsey Merkley is helping departments across the Ontario public service apply a digital lens to their products and services.

The Code for Canada Showcase is a celebration of civic tech in Canada. What does civic tech mean to you?

Scale. The scale that we can work on at Ontario Digital Service is outstanding; the projects we work on impact the lives of almost 13 million people. Civic tech is unique from everyday technology because it’s generally not opt in. The work we do touches on the fundamentals of everyday participation in our society. You have to register your newborn, update your drivers licence, get a sticker for your licence plate. We need to get the basics right and deliver on these if we are to build trust with the people we serve.

How does the theme of civic tech or the values of the civic tech movement relate to your work?

The key to a successful project in government is building trust to be able to fail and be allowed to learn from that failure. For me, the key to success is letting go of the notion that holding onto knowledge is more powerful than sharing it. One of the key values of ODS that keep me working in government is our value of working in the open. Thinking out loud, working in the open and having space to take risks is what I love most about my job.

What’s unique about civic tech and digital government in Canada? Are there unique opportunities? Unique challenges?

The challenge is also the opportunity: how can we bring the different digital government teams across Canada together and align our movement so we’re all heading in the same direction? How do we solve for our unique regional challenges but align our work and more effectively learn from each other. I’m enthusiastic about the quality of work and the innovations being brought to life by public servants across Canada at all levels of government. We need to be communicating the work that is being done and working in the open is key to success of Canadian civic tech. We’re making progress — we need to get better at talking about it.

The Showcase brings together public servants, entrepreneurs, community organizers and residents under the banner of civic tech. From your perspective, why is it important to get people from across sectors in the same room?

The value of civic tech is its cross population impact. Unlike other forms of tech which are divided amongst socio-economic lines, affordability or technological barriers, civic tech impacts all Canadians. The value and opportunity to learn and impact across sectors in civic tech is huge, daunting and overall, exciting to think about. As a new member of the public service I think most people outside the government don’t have a sense of how difficult working agile is within many walls of government. I think the ODS and many other colleagues across Canada are working to build brighter government services for everyone. We need to support each other.

What are you most excited about for the Showcase this year?

Seeing all the fellows and the awesome work they have done!

Kelsey will be delivering a lightning talk at the 2019 Code for Canada Showcase in Edmonton on July 29. Get your tickets today!

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

Luke Simcoe

Written by

Communications Lead at Code for Canada. Telling the Canadian story of civic tech and digital government. Find me on Twitter: @code4luke

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

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