By Lisa Carroll, Public Sector Leader, Microsoft Canada
Government organizations were able to respond quickly to unpredictable conditions in the last 18 months because they invested early to build a strong digital foundation. But the landscape is continuing to shift and we won’t be returning to what was once considered “normal”. It’s clear that those early investments are not enough to keep up with the speed of change.
Heightened expectations and increased demands for public services from citizens and business put pressure on the public sector to continue investing in digital solutions, according to new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Microsoft. In fact, 79% of government respondents said investment in technology has increased since the pandemic, with a focus on improving operational efficiency.
These new investments must not only consider new technologies that improve government services, there must be a simultaneous investment in top-tier security solutions and processes that adhere to privacy and compliance protocols. Government technology ecosystems are more complex than ever and the risks of a cyber-attack on critical infrastructure are increasing. We should never compromise on security, but it also cannot stand in the way of innovation. Cloud computing has been instrumental in creating a new era of cybersecurity for the public sector. Because of the cloud and the advantages provided by AI, we now have sophisticated tools that help us protect against threats at a scale that would never be possible by humans alone.
Innovation at all levels of government
Technology has incredible potential to help governments address complex economic, social and sustainability issues. Over the past year we’ve had the opportunity to work alongside government organizations across all three levels to implement new digital solutions that improve services, support economic recovery, ensure resiliency and increase secure collaboration.
Federal: Natural Resources Canada
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is at the forefront of innovation in the federal government, placing solutions like Microsoft Azure AI at the core of its digital strategy to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for Canadians. We are currently working together on three pilot programs that support the department’s sustainable development and climate action research. These are the Electric Vehicle (EV) and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative, the ‘ENERGY STAR® Detective’, and a sustainable mining national database. Read more about our work with NRCan here and check out this episode of Real AI where we explore the ‘ENERGY STAR® Detective’ program.
Territory: Government of Nunavut
As part of the Government of Nunavut’s work to proactively ensure the vitality of Inuktitut, Microsoft worked closely with the territory to add Inuktitut text translation to Microsoft Translator. This addition allows users to translate any of the more than 70 languages to or from Inuktitut, the primary dialect of the Inuktut language, which also includes Inuinnaqtun. With Microsoft Translator, Inuktitut is more accessible at work, school and in everyday life, which will help the language continues to thrive.
The Government of Nunavut also recently deployed Microsoft Teams to many of its 5,200-plus employees and additional support workers, providing new ways to connect virtually across Nunavut’s vast territory. The addition of Microsoft Teams has allowed government employees and residents to access skills training and other essential services, potentially saving Nunavut millions of dollars in travel costs.
Finally, the Government of Nunavut piloted Windows 365 to help securely manage its elastic workforce. Previous attempts to deploy virtual desktop solutions proved unsustainable due to the limitations of low-bandwidth satellite internet and the constant need for IT staff to manage the network and infrastructure. Windows 365 provided access to specialists and organizations from outside the territory to support Nunavut’s IT needs, enabling them to deliver the day-to-day expertise needed to run the government and ultimately improve the quality of life for local communities. Read more about our collaboration here.
Municipal: Calgary, Alberta
In 2013, a catastrophic flood hit Calgary when the Bow River overflowed its banks. Businesses, government and the people of Calgary themselves saw their lives and routines massively disrupted, but they adapted and persevered. And then, seven years later, came COVID-19.
For thousands of City of Calgary employees, the pandemic once again meant displacement from their offices and a revolutionary shift in work practices – but given the experience of the flood, they were ready to adapt and respond. Chief Information Technology Officer Jan Bradley and her team quickly deployed a comprehensive mix of software, services and a total portfolio of more than 4,000 Surface devices to keep the wheels of the city government turning with 5,500 staff working remotely.
Calgary’s IT team already had some mobile and remote infrastructure in place. In fact, they had already been planning migration to a more modern workplace built around Windows 10, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Surface and, in particular, Microsoft Teams for a more comprehensive, organization-wide architecture better tuned to the requirements of a mobile workforce. When staff moved to remote work, they adopted the new tools at a tremendous rate. Read more about Calgary’s digital transformation here.
FWD50: Harnessing technology to make society better for all
It is clear that digital technology and data are indispensable tools for public sector organizations and many government leaders are recognizing that a strong digital ecosystem is the foundation for the future. On November 2-5, innovators from across the public service and tech industry will gather virtually at FWD50 to collaborate, network and discuss how advanced technology can help make society better for all. As a presenting sponsor of the conference, Microsoft is participating in a series of events that explore innovation in the public sector. Be sure to sign up and tune-in to the live discussions!
- Industry Innovations: As a follow up to last year’s FWD50 programming, John Weigelt, Microsoft Canada’s National Technology Officer sat down with Alistair Croll, Co-founder & Chair FWD50, and Vik Pant, Chief Scientist & Chief Science Advisor at Natural Resources Canada, to explore the potential of AI for Good and the incredible work we are doing with NRCan to advance sustainability research in this video that has launched ahead of the event.
- Keynote Track: Enabling digital transformation in public sector with industry partnerships with Dr Julia Glidden November 2nd, 10:05-10:25AM Eastern
- The combined power of cloud, data and AI will continue to be key in shaping modern governments. Join Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector Julia Glidden in conversation with Alistair Croll on how the partnership between the technology industry and public sector organizations will enable government transformation, with an eye toward citizen-driven, seamless and personalized public services across the globe.
- Workshop Track: Building resilience at every level of society – What did we learn and how do we move forward? November 3rd, 3:30 – 5:00PM Eastern
- Join Chris White, Managing Director, Microsoft Research to learn how new technologies can play a crucial role in building capacity for resilience and participate in an interactive workshop session, led by Pauline Martin and Christiane Coda on Microsoft Canada’s Government Industry team, about applying these learnings in the public sector.
- Executive Track: Moving the digital public sector forward – Canadian women leading the way November 3rd, 2:30-3:10PM Eastern
- I will be sitting down with Lucie Loignon, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Environment and Climate Change Canada, Christiana Cavazzoni, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Information Management, and Deputy CIO, Department of National Defence, and Michèle Mullen, Director General of Partnerships and Risk Mitigation at the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, to discuss the future of digital acceleration in the public sector. I look forward to a fascinating discussion that explores building culture and skills, while also protecting data, ensuring innovation and moving the digital public sector forward.
- Keynote Track: The Business of Responsible AI November 4th, 11:25-11:55PM Eastern
- Join Susan Etlinger, Director AI and Innovation, Microsoft and Kathy Baxter, Principal Architect, Ethical AI Practice, Salesforce for an engaging conversation about the practice of AI going from an exotic subspecialty to a recognized discipline in industry, government and beyond. The chat will cover the current state of AI ethics in industry, what we’ve learned so far, and where they think we’re headed in the next 3-5 years.
I look forward to joining you and seeing the conversation at FWD50. For more on FWD50 and to register for the conference, please visit FWD50.com