Ontario CDO Hillary Hartley at a Ladies Learning Code coding class. (Photo by Tanya Coyle.)

Hello, Ontario!

I’m Hillary and this is my first blog post as Chief Digital Officer for the Ontario Government. I’m not the first to post on our blog, there’s a ton of good content in here (please read it!). But there’s something special about new starts — there’s a buzz, energy and optimism that’s infectious. I felt it the first time I visited the team in Toronto and knew immediately that I was among “my people.” So, I’d like to start with a few shout-outs.

We have an incredible team of digital folks who were blazing new trails before I got here, and leadership who truly understands the positive impact we can have in people’s lives when we get digital right. I’m thankful to have inherited a brilliant, entrepreneurial team who are impact-driven and full of soul. Their work to pioneer new ways of working and create Ontario.ca — a world-class platform — have set a whole new standard in Canada. These amazing folks, along with many others I’ve met across the Ontario Public Service who share their drive to deliver the best public services possible, are the main reason I came here.

We’re going to do great things, together.

The new sign on the door of the office. (Photo by Katy Lalonde.)

For starters, we have a new mandate! Have a look, and let us know what you think. It’s bold and ambitious, covering all the terrain a good digital mission should. We’re going to concentrate on user needs, trial some new things, and get going. The Ontario Digital Service (ODS) is here to empower and enable ministries to think differently about their approach to delivering services. Only through strong partnerships — with ministries, communities outside government, and businesses who can help — will we be able to meet the challenge to become the most open, transparent, and digitally connected province in Canada.

I’ve been asked a lot about how we will deliver and who we can mobilize to help, as we go. When I was at 18F in the United States, our mantra was “Just start.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised at how challenging it can be to convince people to begin with a hypothesis, not a solution. It’s fundamental to our work in digital, so we’ll start there, opening a dialogue to help our partners see what’s possible when we use agile methods, the latest technologies and user-centred design to deliver online services.

On the inside, I see the ODS as a support structure for government — a skills collective that can open up new ideas, strategies, technologies and opportunities that bring our organization, people and the internet together to achieve better outcomes for users. There are tens of thousands of public servants doing brilliant work. This work matters to millions of people (the provincial government supports child care, schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, water, forests, just to name a few things). Government is an incredible force for good. Imagine what’s possible when we build, measure, iterate, and learn? Even cooler, we’re working alongside a global community of people who are right there with us coding, designing, and delivering awesome digital services.

In the coming weeks, we’ll have more to share about our organization, as the Ontario Digital Service takes its next lap. For now, I’d like to share three things I believe will enable us to “Just start.”

People. We shine when we bring out the best in others. We need to be willing to support change through collaboration and openness. Let’s create the most diverse digital communities of practice and drive together toward a shared vision of a better online experience for users.

Trust. We’re embarking on something different from what most of us have experienced inside government. Transformation comes as a result of understanding your capacity and capability, then setting teams loose to deliver. We can’t do that without trust: in each other, and in our partners.

Culture. We digital folk tend to be curious and unconventional. We don’t mind making mistakes because we learn from them. We get excited when new ideas emerge that challenge us or require us to master new skills. I challenge you to embrace this mindset and share it.

We have a real opportunity to show what is possible when we put users first, make inclusion an everyday part of our work, use data to drive decisions, continuously learn, and tap into the collective energy of people to deliver.

Let us know how we can help. Oh, and, will you join us?


Hillary Hartley is the Chief Digital Officer for the Government of Ontario.