Notes for remarks by
Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation
for delivery in Vietnam,
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to be with you today. It is a great honour for me to speak to you, once again, on behalf of Ontario.
You were very kind to me on my last visit to Vietnam in January of 1996. It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you again, and a particular pleasure for me to be able to witness, first hand, the rapid pace of change in this country. The changes and progress you are making are no more apparent than in my field of Information Technology.
Vietnam is uniquely placed to benefit from state-of-the-art Information Technology. Vietnam has a great advantage in that it does not have to repeat the mistakes of the IT policies of other countries, neither does it have to compromise to accommodate the historical constraints imposed by an existing infrastructure.
The resolution of the government of Vietnam to undertake the development of an information society is an ambitious and far-reaching economic and social initiative. A commitment to implement a national IT strategy means that the existing policy framework will have to be re-examined to create a climate that assures the success of the new IT infrastructure.
I congratulate you on your far-sightedness and courage in making that commitment.
In the global information economy, no jurisdiction exists in isolation. Ontario exports in the neighbourhood of $90 billion annually, 65% of this amount goes to customers outside of Canada. We have doubled our international exports in the past decade and although we will continue to exploit our close relationship with the United States, we are looking further afield to increase trade with more distant partners.
The high standard of living we enjoy in Ontario depends on maintaining and improving our position as a global trading economy. Ontario is a good place to do business, and we are working hard to make it even better. We realise that expertise in Information Technology is central to our success in global trade.
In this context both Ontario and Vietnam face similar challenges to support an information infrastructure which will be an enabler of economic prosperity and contribute to the quality of life of our citizens.
In Ontario, our government is faced with some constraints in its efforts to do achieve these goals. Our government is committed to reducing public sector expenditures. "Down-sizing" is the order of the day, and we are constantly challenged to "Do better with less". One way the government can continue to fulfil the commitment to deliver services and programs that are relevant, timely and meet the needs of our clients and our citizens is by making strategic and innovative use of information technology.
Today I will talk about one very important aspect of our Information Technology strategy: Internet and Intranet usage. We have been working with the current version these technologies for three years and we have gained some experience which I think will be helpful to Vietnam as you consider your future in this area.
Long before we adopted the Internet and Intranet technologies which are now the world standard, we were deeply involved in electronic networks. As far back as 1990 the Government of Ontario had achieved some very practical benefits with its GOnet system. As you know, today's Internet is an outgrowth of an academic and military network developed over the past 20 years. The previous generation of the technology we were using was a close relative of that early technology.
We in Ontario are in a fortunate position for the develppment and use Information Technology. We are close enough to the United States, and have sufficient interaction with that country for business and research purposes, that we can share much of technological advancement with such a populous country. On the other hand, Canada is very much a separate country and we in Canada do pursue our own goals..
The Government of the Province of Ontario is a very large business. We are Canada's largest province, and the economic heartland of our large country. It has a budget of $XX, about 80,000 employees, and is spread out over almost 2,000 kilometres. It has diverse responsibilities, and yet it must speak with one voice and be consistent throughout the province. Given these challenges, you can see the usefulness of an Information network to us.
As well as the financial resources to develop the technology and the international connections to learn from the work of others, the Government of Ontario has a very close connection with our own universities which are engaged in research and development of the technology we go on to use. In fact, Canada's largest university is the University of Toronto. The campus of this world renown institution, and the centre of the Government of Ontario actually interlock like pieces of a puzzle in downtown Toronto where they have grown up side by side for the last 150 years.
So when I say that we have been using our present Internet and Intranet technologies for the past three years, I mean that we have been using the persent version of the technology for that long. Our experience with networks goes back much further than that, and we are very fortunate to be able to draw on our long expereince and the experience of many other governments and institutions.
We feel that the technologies we have now are by far the best to date. No doubt they will continue to improve over time, but they are now at a stage at which they provide benefits which are essential to the way do business.
These technologies are not without problems, they are not perfect. They need preparation and planning to be useful and effective. To use them it is absolutely essential that you have an implementation strategy. You should also keep in mind that not every business purpose suits the Internet well.
As you know, the Internet is used primarily for public access and Intranets are for internal uses such as administration and in-house communication. These two "Nets" have many similarities and many differences. It will be important to keep their individual qualities in mind and to apply the one with is best for each specific purpose.
Even when you have these systems fully implemented, they will require care and maintenance to make them work for you. Like everything to do with computers - when they don't work they're terrible. And when they do work well you can't imagine that you ever did without them. We have had both kinds of experiences.
On the positive side, we have been able to do a better job of what we were already doing, and to do things which we could not achieve without the Internet and our Intranet. We have been able to be more efficient and save money while doing this.
Despite the differences between Canada and Vietnam, there is much we have in common that is pertinent to my field of Information Technology and government:
I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our experiences with these technologies. Of course, it is for you to decide which of our experiences are useful to you and to your implementation. I will speak of a few which I think may have applications here in Vietnam, and I will be available later for any questions you will have.
An example of Intranet use within government is the government telephone directory. The Province of Ontario has about 80,000 employees. People are regularly retiring, being replaced, or temporarily working in other ministries and other jobs. It is a difficult and expensive job to keep this printed directory up to date. It's 809 pages long and as soon as it's printed it is out of date.
We will soon be able to use our Intranet as the main telephone directory for Government of Ontario employees. We will still publish a paper directory of employees, but not so often. The on-line directory can be changed every day to add, remove or change locations of the people it lists.
This is a very simple application, one which a novice user of the technology can understand and use very quickly. The directory is mostly for internal use within the government and our on-line version will save us the time, trouble and expense of throwing away and replacing 80,000 copies,
This simple project illustrates a few of the very important points which we found to be necessary for successful implementation of Internet and Intranet technologies:
· Everyone understands the application.
People who know nothing about the Internet can understand the purpose of the project. Not all projects need to be this simple, but when you're starting out and getting people to accept the new technology you do need some projects which are very easy to understand
· It is simple to use.
By accessing the telephone directory in an electronic format, our users are beginning with a simple application that is easy to use. They begin the process of learning to use the more complex applications that lie ahead.
· It is better than the existing method.
People move around a lot within the government The new directory is up to date and you always know where to find it. People will accept the new, improved telephone directory together with the new technology.
· It saves money.
It costs a lot of money to print an 809 page directory and distribute it to 80,000 employees. Of course maintaining any Internet site costs money too. Not all applications will save money as clearly as this one can, and it is important to keep a close eye on your costs in developing and maintaining a site.
I have an electronic copy of the Government Telephone directory with me and I will be pleased to give you a demonstration of it later. This, (HOLD UP PAPER DIRECTORY) is the book it replaces.
Another example of our government's corporate use of his technology is the Intranet site on which Management Board Directives are posted. These directives are the handbook, policy and guidelines under which the government does business. They include Human Resource material, purchasing, and dissemination of information from the centre of government. It is important that employees within the government have access to this information and that they have access to the same information. There could be serious consequences if someone were operating with an outdated version of this material.
Much of the purchasing for the Government of Ontario is now done on the Internet. Suppliers quotes and prices are posted, we respond and make our orders. This method involves no faxes and no paper. Suppliers quickly can get to know our requirements which are posted on-line.
This is a different way for government to do business with private sector. It is an example of the re-engineering of the processes which Internet technology will make necessary.
Our Intranet is secure within all 18 ministries, and is by far the fastest, easiest, and most-cost effective way of giving access to this information to the people who need it. And only to those people who need it.
It is important to note there that using the Intranet for essential purposes implies that everyone has access to it. In Ontario we are very closely approaching this goal.
As you know, there are varying degrees of security that can be applied to the browser technology. Are they secure? Yes, they are.
There are many ways to construct a secure "firewall" around your information. Providing this service is a business in itself. This technology is so secure that in Canada; all the major banks provide browser access to bank accounts. I can pay my bills and transfer money between accounts from my home computer in complete safety. The bank knows that it is me and only me who has the ability to do this.
These technologies are giving us a new way to do business in the age of the Information Economy. For internal government use, such things as on-line manuals of administration, newsletters, Human Resource training, staff memos, templates for purchase orders and news releases, and stories of Best Practices all have versions that use this technology and have significant advantages over other ways of doing business.
We use can register our travelling expenses on-line, and fill in time sheets via the Intranet. This is much more convenient and accessible than the old paper-based methods. Many of our processes of doing business have already been re-engineered because of this technology and we know that we have a process of on-going changes ahead.
The widespread adoption of these technologies within our government has created an "Internet Community". People working on related projects and people with similar interests can be instantly connected to share information and pool their resources. This, too, helps us to improve the performance of our business.
Our government is also using the Internet as a communications strategy for the public. We have started the process quite recently and we will be using it more and more in the future. For presenting information and providing services for our population, these technologies fast, efficient and inexpensive. In some cases, we are using the Internet for program delivery. These technologies are definitely improving the ways in which we can do business.
Government is no longer "9 to 5." Government information is available on the Internet 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Just as providing information in printed form costs money to produce, there are costs associated with producing a site for the Internet. The big different in costs comes on a per user basis. Once a site is there, the costs for each additional person to access the site is very very low. Printed material, on the other hand, continues to cost a significant amount for each additional copy that is printed.
Ontario is a very large province, and even though we have some large cities which have many government offices and facilities, we also have a rural population and some very isolated settlements. Wherever there is a telephone connection, our population can access the information just as easily as can someone living in the centre of Toronto.
In presenting our province to the world, Internet technology has been very useful. Like Vietnam, we are committed to doing business internationally. We want and need people from the entire globe to know about us, to do business with us, and to invest in us. Ontario is not a poor province, but until we employed Internet technology we did not have the resources to properly address the inquiries we received for information about doing business in our province. Now we do! For giving out information, the Internet is like having an almost unlimited number of employees who just never stop working.
At the Ontario-Canada site, maintained by our Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the ministry is using Internet to market Ontario internationally, and to provide information about government assistance for business development, taxes, business regulation, services to help small business people and corporations doing business in Ontario.
Information is going out from the government to the people who use the site, and information is also coming in as the users of the site fill in forms which ask questions about their identity, their needs and their businesses.
Tourism is another large concern for Ontario and for Vietnam. More and more people are turning to the Internet as their primary source of information on a tourist destination. Many private tour operators and service providers have Internet sites that are very heavily used. It is also important for the government to have a site.
Our government used to run a booking service for hotels and tourist services. Now we have privatised it through a partnership with the private sector.
Under our existing system, bookings can flow easily from the requests information which began the process. Later this year, that system will be able to accept credit cards for payment and thereby fulfil the caller's needs with one phone call The result is that we are boosting our tourism sales beyond physical boundaries of our offices and even the offices of travel agents, and making it possible for the point of sale to be our clients' own home.
This program complements - but does note replace - the existing programs of sending out brochures, speaking with people on the telephone, attending trade shows and so on..
I do not want to give you the impression that the Internet and Intranet will replace people. They won't. Human contact is always going to be important. These technologies are now very good at providing quantities of information when people request them. They can save our employees from performing many routine tasks, but they will never be a substitute for human relations. In deciding what services can be performed by these technologies, it is important to ask "What value will these technologies add to the provision of this information or the delivery of this service?" If there is no clear answer, it may be best to use the technologies for something else.
The first ministry of the Government of Ontario to use the Internet for delivering information to its stakeholders was the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This ministry is still one of the heaviest users within government. Education programs for farmers, sharing of information between farmers and farm groups, commodity prices, best practices are examples of the extensive content on this ministry's very extensive website.
For example, Ontario farmers can use the Agriculture & Food Internet site to ask questions of ministry experts in Business Development, Epidemiology, Forages & Pastures, Health & Safety, Soil Management and dozens of other very specific topics. The expert who will answer the question has his or her name, address and photograph on the Internet, so it is almost like having an expert in all those areas for your neighbour.
If I was to talk about the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to Ontarians and say that it was one of the most useful and popular sites we have, some people would be a little surprised. Even in Canada we have the image of a farmer as being someone who does not use high-tech equipment.
In fact, that image of Canadian farmers is not really correct. But I know that in Vietnam, most farmers are not going to have direct access to Internet technology for some time. This illustrates an important point: the end users must have the education and the equipment to use this technology.
In Ontario we have addressed this challenge. All schools are on the Internet so all students learn to operate Internet browsers. There is a wealth of educational material posted on the Internet and students and teachers are encouraged to use it.
Both students and teachers have found that the Internet is a great way to communicate with other schools in the area and schools around the world! The access which our students and teachers have to information has increased exponentially with the use of the Internet.
But not all families have a computer in their homes or offices. We have made sure that Libraries, community centres and other publicly accessible facilities do have Internet access that the public can use. These information sources have enthusiastically embraced this technology.
Some of the revenue generating services the government provides can be done on the Internet. In Massachusetts it is now possible to register a vehicle license on the Internet. There is a fee for this, as there is for the same service performed in a government office, but the costs of providing the service are lower. The Canadian federal government is looking into ways of putting the federal sales tax remittance on-line, and we have been able to pay file our income tax returns electronically for some years. The advantages of the use of the technology in these cases are that it is somewhat more convenient for the taxpayer, and it is much less costly for the government.
These examples show how these Internet and Intranet technologies do now and can in the future benefit the Government of Ontario.
We have learned which functions can benefit most from the application of this technology and we are now in the on-going process of putting this technology to work.
We have also learned some very important lessons about what makes each project a success. I would like to outline my list of Critical Success Factors which is based on our experience. As I said earlier, we have not always had the success he hoped for in the application of these technologies, but we have always learned from our experience.
1.Do a needs assessment. This will focus your thoughts and your team on your goals and will determine if your activity can be served by the application of this technology.
2.Make a plan. Do not begin the application of these technologies without determining costs, timelines, personnel issues and so on. You may well make changes to this plan after the project has begun - this is normal - but it is essential to apply project management techniques to the introduction of these technologies and their applications to each area.
3.Establish Standards and a sufficient Infrastructure. We have spent a good deal of time doing this in Ontario, and I will be happy to share those guidelines with you. In Vietnam you will, of course, want to apply standards which are different from ours, but standards must exist. They must be known and understood by all participants and they must make sense for this technology and the purposes we want to achieve.
4.Accept the fact that this technology will change the way we do business. Be ready and willing to do things differently.
5.Make a commitment to maintenance. A website is never really "finished" the way printed material can be. People expect that material that is posted on-line will be very up-to-date. If it is not, then your site will lose its credibility and usefulness and you would be better off without it. Identify the people who will be responsible for maintaining your sites.
6.Make a commitment to on-going content development. Identify the issues that relate to the content that you will provide and make the necessary decisions on the content before you begin. Identify what the areas of responsibility are and then designate individuals to fulfil these responsibilities. The jobs of Webmaster, programmer and developer are separate areas of responsibility and they usually are performed by different people.
7.Address the issues of accessibility to the end user. Do the people you are trying to reach have the technology and the training to access the information? If not, can this be supplied? There are some sensitive issues around the training of staff that should be addressed.
8.Make a commitment at the executive level to this technology. People in every organisation take their cues from the top. If the senior management cannot support the application of this technology it is not realistic to expect it to function well. Enthusiastic support of these systems by management will be the push needed to get the organisation to use the technology.
9.Develop a "quick hit" application and begin with that. I used the example of our telephone book, and something like this may work or you. It should be something which the maximum number of people can use and understand, and it should be a relatively simple use of the technology. An early success with these technologies will be the pull necessary to make the rank and file want to participate in the implementation of the technology.
The Internet and your Intranets are capable of many things and I predict that these technologies will be with us for a very long time, but it is important to make a good beginning with them, and to involve as many people in the organisation as possible.
Vietnam is at an exciting moment in its history. This country has made many changes and you have become much better at adapting to change. The Information Economy is a very key component of the world economy and becoming more and more important all the time. To participate in this exciting field you will need to be familiar with these technologies. Vietnam is in the fortunate position to be able to see how these technologies are applied in other jurisdictions and to choose the applications that best suit your purposes.
If I can be of any help in this regard, I am at your disposal. I look forward to meeting many of you again in the workshop sessions. Thank you.
Back to Index of "Government" Back to Home