About the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act

Putting people first by developing simpler, faster, better services

Last month, the government introduced the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act as part of its Budget bill. Since then, our team has received many encouraging messages, and has been grateful to read a few insightful posts about its possibilities, for better or worse.

Last month, Deputy Hartley shared her insights about this big milestone in our digital transformation journey.

Some highlights from the legislation

The preamble (beginning with our endgame in mind)
Most people skip the preamble when reading legislation, but it is worth a second look.

“The Government of Ontario is committed to placing people at the centre of every government program, service, process and policy and to delivering simpler, faster and more easily accessible services for the people, communities and businesses of Ontario today and in the future.”

Note that we emphasize people, not technology at the centre of how government thinks and works. This is, after all, our endgame: to make government work better for people, not transformation for its own sake.

Even though most of the legislation is about services digital transformation doesn’t end at the services that government provides. But it needs to begin there. Because if we cannot fix the most basic things for people, then we cannot continue to have people’s trust in government to address their more complex needs.

Simpler, faster, better, open government … starting with services

The Act elevates to legislation principles that represent a new set of public service defaults :

  • People-centred services
  • Inclusion by design
  • Responsible data management
  • Public release of non-sensitive data
  • Continuous improvement
  • Privacy and security
  • Scalable, interoperable technology platforms

Formalizing the role of the Chief Digital and Data Officer

It’s about time that we stopped talking about digital and data as separate domains. The new Chief Digital and Data Officer (CDDO) role streamlines digital and data in government digital services as they:

  • Promote effective development and implementation across government (including ministries, agencies, boards or commissions)
  • Advise broader public sector organizations on development and implementation
  • Assess development and effectiveness. The CDDO may also, by request of the minister, assess digital services provided by any specific part of government. The CDDO is responsible for publishing assessments that the minister requests on Ontario.ca

To transform data practices as they relate to delivering digital services or open data, the CDDO must:

  • Maintain a list and description of government datasets
  • Advise the broader public sector on data management and use (including the use of common tools and platforms for data)
  • Promote the publication of open data by broader public sector organizations to publish open data
  • Promote public engagement in the broader public sector

Finally, the CDDO is responsible for developing a Digital and Data Action Plan for Ontario that the public can review on Ontario.ca. This Action Plan must be reviewed every three years and should give all of government actionable advice on digital transformation.

Guarding against inertia

Technology changes quickly, and we want to make sure that our rules keep pace. We have committed to review and revisit the legislation to ensure it stays relevant and holds true to our commitment to be people-centred.

One giant step forward, many more to follow!

This legislation is part of a larger initiative to make government work better in a digital age. As part of bringing this legislation to life, here are some of the things we’re focusing on, over the next few months:

  1. Getting our house in order: How do we simplify our internal ruleset and build purposeful internal governance? How do we cut internal red tape and make new ways of working the norm, not the exception? How do we tackle institutional barriers to digital?
  2. Developing 21st century standards and guidance: How do we iterate on our existing Digital Service Standard so that services we build are easy-to-use, trustworthy and reliable? How do we continue to make the good path the easy path?
  3. Accelerating digital training efforts: How do we create the conditions to make simpler, faster, better government a reality? How do we better organize ourselves? Who can we partner with — internally and externally — to equip public servants with the right skills and supports to deliver on government priorities?

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on any of the above questions. Drop me a line — digital.standards@ontario.ca; I would love to hear from you!

Also, big thanks to the mighty team behind this legislation: Allyna Sagun, Amy Bihari, Christine Hagyard, Dalia Hashim, Darren Chartier, Dawn Edmonds, Laura Nelson-Hamilton, Paul Vet and Rachel Barton.

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Honey Dacanay

Honey Dacanay

Professionally awkward. Trying to make gov work better. Policy, data & talent @ESDC_GC. Digital gov @McMasterU. Alum @DigiAcademyCan. @ONDigital co-founder