In its annual report on Canada’s digital infrastructure plan, the government has revealed an expansive digital transformation strategy focused on improving “whole-of-government” service delivery. This strategy encompasses the development of a “digital credentials” and identification system.
The “Government of Canada’s Digital Ambition” report was issued in July by the Office of the Chief Information Officer, within the Treasury Board. It offers direction for the government’s strategic approach to data management, security, privacy, and access to information.
The report underscores the challenges faced by Canadians and the government, one of which is asking Canadians in inconsistent ways to provide personal information when accessing various government services, each operating on separate and independent systems. To address this issue, the report recommends adopting a unified government digital platform service delivery model that facilitates data exchange among government agencies.
As part of this model, the report highlights the government’s work in establishing a pan-Canadian digital credential-sharing and a standardized method for identity verification. Additionally, it is launching a digital credentials program to provide a unified access point for all government services. Additionally, the federal government said it will continue to work with its provincial and territorial counterparts to promote the adoption of digital services delivery.
This report serves as an update to the initial “Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022” report, released on Aug. 4, 2022.
The initial report coincides with the Privy Council Office’s allocation of $2.4 million for a focus group to launch a study into the potential implementation of “digital credentials” on Aug. 24, 2022.
During the research process, the focus group, comprised of six adult Nova Scotia residents identified as “middle-class individuals concerned about the economy and employment,” were compensated between $100 and $125 for their participation in an online discussion on digital IDs.
The participants presented a range of opinions, with a noticeable lack of awareness regarding digital credentials. While some participants acknowledged the convenience of digital identification, many voiced concerns regarding security risks and the possibility of discrimination against individuals with lower incomes.
Despite these concerns, Canada’s Liberal government is moving forward with the establishment of a national digital identification system. In the update report, President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier also highlighted the need to ensure Canadians that they can trust the government and that their personal information is protected.
“Those we serve expect government services that are not only easy to use, but also secure and focused on privacy. They expect high quality, accessible, and efficient government services,” she said. “We have a responsibility to continue to build and maintain trust with Canadians in everything that we do.”
To foster trust among Canadians, the report outlines several transparency-building measures the government intends to adopt. These measures include facilitating access to information and personal information requests through an online portal.
Additionally, the government will experiment with approaches to declassifying government documents and establishing disclosure methods, enabling government organizations to provide Canadians with timely and secure updates through email or text messages.