Digitally Transforming #OnMuni

Posted: October 11, 2017
Tagged As: Digital, Government, Legislation & Regulation, Technology

Open data. Social media. Automated vehicles. IoT. Blockchain. AI. New disruptive approaches to old ways of doing things are here, and they are here to stay. What once might have been seen as an idea lifted from the pages of an old science fiction novel, are now very real advancements that are emerging at a relentless pace.  When the most recent version of Ontario’s Municipal Act came into force in 2003, the impact of companies like Uber and AirBnB to local governance could not possibly have been fathomed. Now local governments are committed to exploring digital innovations and technologies with many communities embracing and implementing digital approaches to service delivery and operations.

Most importantly, municipal governments understand that digitalization is a transformative process. To quote Tom Loosemore, founder of the United Kingdom’s Digital Service, it means “applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations.” For municipal governments to succeed, they must continue to reimagine processes and service delivery, while being responsive and innovative when engaging with citizens.

As we all know, for municipal governments, one size does not fit all. While some are well ahead in their digital transformation efforts, many are at an early stage of maturation and require assistance moving digital priorities forward. Others, particularly in smaller, rural, northern and remote communities, have neither identified nor considered digital transformation as a priority for their local government. To address this, last year, AMO formed a Digital Government Task Force to identify digital barriers and opportunities for municipal governments, and to provide input to the provincial government on digital government initiatives recognizing the potential for impacts on the municipal and the broader public sector.

The culmination of the Task Force’s work in 2017 was the release of a report #OnMuni Online: Towards Digital Transformation and Opportunities for Ontario’s Municipal Governments approved by the AMO Board of Directors in August. The report outlines key issues for municipal governments including capacity and resourcing to address IT and digital priorities, access to reliable high-speed internet, and preparing local governments for impacts to current services from ongoing disruptive technology and innovations. Opportunities including the value of digital documents and workflows, collaboration with the provincial government through its Ontario Digital Service, streamlining municipal reporting through digital portals, among many others, are highlighted. The report also provides a detailed “how-to” approach to assist municipal governments considering digital transformation. The report will also form the groundwork for AMO’s Enterprise Centre as we explore opportunities to help members find efficiencies and cost savings through user-friendly digital solutions.

Make no mistake, municipal governments in Ontario of all shapes and sizes know that the future is digital.  From customer relationship management tools to partnering with ride sharing companies to offer an alternative form of public transit, from online public engagement forums to online planning application portals, Ontario’s municipalities are thinking strategically as the tools and technologies of the future are arriving in the here and now.

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