One Simple Step to Figure out if your Government “gets” Information Technology

Chris Moore has a good post up on his blog at the moment that asks “Will Canadian Cities ever be Strategic?” In it (and it is very much worth reading) he hits on a theme I’ve focused on in many of my talks to government but that I think is also relevant to citizens who care about how technologically sophisticated their government is (which is a metric of how relevant you think you government is going to be in a few years).

If you want to know how serious your government or ministry is about technology there is a first simple step you can take: look at the org chart.

Locate the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Simple question: Is he or she part of the senior executive team?

If yes – there is hope that your government (or the ministry you are looking at) may have some strategic vision for IT.

If no – and this would put you in the bucket with about 80% of local governments, and provincial/federal ministries – then your government almost certainly does not have a strong vision, and it isn’t going to be getting one any time soon.

As Chris also notes and I’ve been banging away at (such as during my keynote to MISA Ontario), in most governments in Canada the CIO/CTO does not sit at the executive table. At the federal level they are frequently Director Generals, (or lower), not Assistant Deputy Minister level roles. At the local level, they often report into someone at the C-level.

This is insanity.

I’m trying to think of a Fortune 500 company – particularly one which operates in the knowledge economy – with this type of reporting structure. The business of government is about managing information… to better regulate, manage resources and/or deliver services. You can’t be talking about how to do that without having the CIO/CTO being part of that conversation.

But that’s what happens almost every single day in many govenrment orgs.

Sadly, it gets worse.

In most organizations the CIO/CTO reports into the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This really tells you what the organization thinks of technology: It is a cost centre that needs to be contained.

We aren’t going to reinvent government when the person in charge of the infrastructure upon which most of the work is done, the services are delivered and pretty much everything else the org does depends on, isn’t even part of the management team or part of the organizations strategic conversations.

It’s a sad state of affairs and indicative of why our government’s are so slow in engaging in new technology.

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