I just returned from speaking at the GTEC 2011 conference in Ottawa earlier today. This is the largest government technology conference in the country. It was held at the new Ottawa Convention Centre next to the Westin Hotel and the conference took over the entire building. All of the major technology providers were in attendance. The trade show floor rivalled any major technology conference that I have attended. The major difference was that that this conference was entirely dedicated to the use of technology in government.
This year the theme was Connected Government – Working Together to Better Serve Canadians, which was perfect for our session about Using Digital Technologies to Connect with Citizens in the Town of Markham. I had the honour of presenting with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. Much of the vision that is emanating from Markham to utilize digital technologies to increase citizen engagement, comes from the Mayor’s leadership.
We were there to share the journey that we have been on together since 2003 when Markham first introduced Internet voting, and the projects that we have helped Markham to realize since. Our core message was about utilizing technology to create relevant experience for residents so that they are more engaged with their government—and not simply implementing technology because it should work.
Our presentation as well received and we had a lot of people come up to speak with us afterward. What I found incredibly interesting was that while I took Delvinia’s story of being “customer-centric” and referred to it as “citizen-centric” to ensure it was more aligned to the audience, the Mayor did the exact opposite. He was constantly referring to something that was “citizen-centric” and saying it was “consumer-centric.” It really just shows you that under Mayor’s Scarpitti’s leadership, the Town of Markham is taking their residents’ attitudes and behaviours into consideration when they are implementing technology in government.
While the Mayor provided an overview of how the municipality has implemented technology to create relevant experiences for its residents, such as Internet voting, Click with Markham, and the GreenPrint strategy, I focused on providing the context about how we assisted in creating these relevant experiences and how we overcame the obstacles along the way.
We ended the presentation with the vision of implementing a Voice of the Customer program in Markham aligned with AskingCanadians™ to further enable Markham to listen, engage and measure the attitudes and behaviours of Markham residents in order to better engage them in policy and participation with government.
We’ll post some video footage from the presentation here on our blog in the coming days.