How to respond to criticism of Government’s Digital Transformation

This relates to my previous post: The Bureaucracy Will Learn the Wrong Lesson – Why Government Digital is still so shitty in Canada.

So the question now really is, “how to respond to this problem”, or sadly, “how to respond to this news article”. The problem is that there’s the easy way and the hard way. And the hard way would mean prioritizing this issue. Something no one really wants to do right now, I mean, honestly ask yourself if (as of right now, January 2021) you want the gov to be spending time fixing it’s problems with bureaucracy or would you rather they just focus 100% on COVID and COVID related stuff. Even someone as passionate about “Digital Transformation” as myself doesn’t really think it’s the best of times to address this. All that to say, I won’t judge people for taking the easy way out, you could even say I’ll try to have compassion.

The easy way out is basically to just do nothing. Not a real nothing, regardless there will be dozens’ of meetings, probably memo’s going out to Assistant Deputy Minister’s and what not, heck the union might get involved in the HR meetings about the implications of various headers in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. But in the end, nothing will be done, except maybe having an all staff meeting where folks are reminded of their obligations and how their actions outside of their work may have an impact on the goals they are trying to achieve, etc etc.

Fun fact, the creator of Effin’ Birds was previously a Public Servant

Like most other things in government and in many other institutions with a high percentage of Bullshit Jobs, a lot of time will be spent but nothing real or tangible will come of it.

And now, since it’s very easy to give out advice when you have little to no context and also have no accountability for what you post because you’re a random person on the internet, I’m going to do just that and give my unsolicited advice.

Take the punch.

That’s it. Just take responsibility and ownership for it and explain how you’re going to fix it.

It’s easy to say, and theoretically, it would be easy to do. If there was someone there to take the punch. But that’s one of the biggest problem with digital government, there’s no one ministry and now it’s only made much worse without a Minister for Digital Government. There’s no one where the buck stops.

Taking a punch isn’t all that bad.

No one, ever

There are so many disparate departments, each with their own “mandate”, each with their own problems and there isn’t a single authority who can take, or more accurately, demand accountability on these things.

Whatever department this site was for (I’m guessing ESDC since it’s Service Canada related) won’t want to take any responsibility for it. They may say they are following the guidelines put in place by another department (Probably finger pointing at TBS who would in turn point to many disparate documents on “digital first”). A whole bunch of people will chime in to say that they are working on a “Center for Excellence” on Digital Innovation that would solve this. Folks will argue and point fingers, but no one will, or even can, take responsibility and then actually go thru with it to make concrete change.

So what’s left? The only thing that’s left to fight for if you can’t have accountability, is protect visibility.

The only way that there will be real accountability and visibility is if these things stay in the open and are talked about openly. So in a sense, you may not be able to take responsibility and accountability for changing everything since no one has that power. But many people have the power to stand up to keep even a slight glimmer of visibility and transparency protected. For many folks, that’s the only real way they can follow the guidelines of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector of Respect for Democracy, Respect for People, Integrity, Stewardship, and Excellence.

You may not be able to take the punch and take ownership of fixing the problem, but you can probably take the punch for supporting visibility into the problem.

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