Toronto Leading in Digital Government Services and Online Payments

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Toronto Leading in Digital Government Services and Online Payments

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Over time, the role of technology has evolved and changed our living style significantly. It has revolutionized essentials such as communication, security, healthcare, food processes, money management and many other services we rely on. It makes travelling and shopping effortless and effectively links all countries on earth to promote globalization and economic opportunities for companies to leverage. Technology is a tool at our disposal, we expect it to work for us and simplify our everyday needs from grocery delivery to paying a parking ticket.

As companies across the globe are capitalizing on the advantages of digital technologies, governments have struggled to meet our expectations. With a lack of urgency, resources, or mandates to meet the surge in service demand, government agencies are losing connectivity and engagement from a culture that favours digital transformation. As demand for innovation soars, Canada is facing challenges in a space in which it could be creating opportunities, and the holdup is significantly inconvenient to Canadians.

As a result, the pandemic brought on immense challenges for government, testing their ability to adapt quickly, accelerate the delayed digitalization, serve efficiently, and enhance capabilities on a large scale. Covid-19 caused organizations to fundamentally reform their operations and as public health regulations rolled out, citizens looked to their government to provide economic relief, contain the virus, and provide a steady flow of information. Now more than ever, a digital government is a better equipped one. Ultimately, it is a system of seamless service delivery, locational freedom, workplace flexibility, and a secure underlying digital infrastructure that is essential for establishing new leadership, service delivery and governance models going forward.

Historically, Canada’s digital landscape has been criticized for its slow response to evolving trends and transformations, however, the pandemic rapidly forced many areas of government to accelerate this shift. In early 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada introduced the national Covid-19 modelling network, comprised of medical and government experts to guide public health measures and evaluate the impacts of existing ones. They deployed the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol, a council to identify and prevent the spread of disinformation and partnered with social media platforms to fight conspiracies and set standards and accountability measures online. They took steps toward embedding Software as a Service (SaaS) programs and launched digital platforms to facilitate national support programs such as CERB. Additionally, data-sharing portals across provincial sectors (e.g., Ontario Together) the COVID Alert app, a single national notification app and additional contact tracing measures were the quick solutions deployed to support Canadians and Canadian businesses. Finally, the recent release of the Digital Operations Strategic Plan 2021–2024, makes future investments in the digital space a top priority for easy-to-use, reliable, and secure IT systems, networks, and infrastructure that support government operations. Covid-19 emphasized the need for digital operations, forcing the government to step in the right direction and drive the transformations we all have come to expect beyond the pandemic.

Government can no longer delay digital transformation and must take action now to keep up. Canada’s future growth is directly linked to the government’s ability to seize opportunities created by the rapidly evolving digital economy. In November 2020, the Ontario government took steps to make government services more reliable and accessible through a CAD 500 million investment over four years to modernize, reduce red tape and improve government purchasing. Where governments are lagging, the private sector is harnessing the power of digital development and there is immense value in such investments. Alternatively, while COVID has severely diminished government budgets, engaging external partners to develop delivery methods and generate new platforms recognizes the changing landscape of public services that best reach Canadians today, without the requirement of substantial government investment.

In January 2022, the City of Toronto launched a partnership with the digital government and payment platform, Payit. The Payit platform modernizes residents’ interaction with essential government services and payments. This partnership will help bring Toronto services into the next and modern era of public service through the new ability to:

  • Digitize the payment of parking tickets, property tax payments, licenses, and permits from a one-user experience in one location
  • Streamline government revenue collection from services (providing impactful savings to the city of roughly 8 million dollars over a few years)
  • Sharply reduce renewal wait times
  • Provide Torontonians with mobile, real-time support and assistance to gain faster access to government services

The difficult navigation of multiple separate services is over for Torontonians, and at no additional cost for the government. Payit does not require funding from the City of Toronto thus, alleviating risk from the government and harnessing the burden reduction provided by the system. Payit Founder and CEO John Thompson says, “Government agencies and residents alike are embracing digital service delivery and strong partnerships with technology providers enable that transformation to go faster. We’re thrilled to partner with the City of Toronto to build on their track record of innovation and forward-thinking leadership, and have been very pleased with the response from Toronto residents.” This partnership ultimately allows the city to consolidate essential services into the convenient mobile web and application experience Torontonians expect.

Governments have a responsibility to transform alongside evolving practices and embrace trends that elevate residents’ experiences, much like Toronto has done. It is undeniable that digital technologies provide sophisticated means of increasing opportunities, enhancing service delivery and greater resource management. Through the adoption of such technologies pioneered by the private sector, the government can lead a collaboration that delivers beneficial digital services to improve lives around the world.

Vienna Psihos 

Published 21/09/2022
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