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Building Political Support for Digital Government (with Senator Colin Deacon)
Episode 1716th February 2024 • Let's Think Digital • Think Digital
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We want government to be innovative and not be left behind in the digital revolution. But this comes up against the reality of the structures, incentives, and culture of most public sector organizations that resist change. As a result, and as we’ve been talking about on this podcast, our efforts to push forward digital transformation and modernize the business of government seems to be stuck in the mud as of late. So for the dedicated community of those in and adjacent to the public service who believe in the potential of doing things in a different way, it can at times feel a bit lonely.

As someone who has worked both in the political system and the public service, I know how important clear political leadership is to support these efforts. The good news is that there are those in positions of power and influence who also believe in this vision of modern government.

Our guest this week is one of them.

Senator Colin Deacon is an independent Senator for Nova Scotia, appointed in June 2018. He’s made Digital Government one of his focus areas in the Senate and is one of the founders and co-chairs of the Caucus Group on Emerging Technology, a multi-party initiative to help Parliamentarians better understand how technology is impacting policy issues. He is a strong advocate for working across party-lines, and with entrepreneurs, researchers and social innovators to build a more innovative digital economy in Canada.

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Chapters

00:05 Introduction

03:06 Interview with Senator Colin Deacon

05:23 The Challenges of Implementing Digital Changes in Government

10:41 The Need for Modernizing Government Operations

23:40 International Examples of Digital Transformation: Ukraine

25:35 The Importance of Leadership in Digital Transformation

25:52 Rethinking Procurement for Digital Solutions

35:15 The Emerging Technology Caucus Group

41:02 Closing Remarks

Transcripts

Ryan 0:05

Nova Scotia appointed in June:

Ryan 3:07

Senator Deacon, welcome to Let's Think Digital.

Colin Deacon 3:10

Looking forward to chatting with you, Ryan.

Ryan 3:12

otia in the Senate in June of:

Colin Deacon 3:59

Well, very simply, an innovative economy needs an innovative government. I mean, it's all the rules of how an economy functions are set by government. And if we want to have innovation in our economy, then we have to have innovation in in how we make rules, how we make our laws, our regulations, our, you know, every element, programs, you name it, right across. From the federal government through municipal, provincial and municipal government. So that's, that's why I feel I'm in this job. It's what I wrote about when I applied for the job. I thought there needed to be sort of a startup mentality in the Senate if you're looking for representation of our society and economy in the Senate, which is what this Prime Minister courageously did, not appointing partisan senators. When I got my, I've only spoken to the Prime Minister once, he only called me once, and it was to appoint me. And he only made one request to me, and that was to challenge the government. I'd argue that there wasn't a senator in history of this country who was given that instruction from the Prime Minister appointing them to the Senate, it's, you know, be loyal to the government, or loyal to the party. So, you know, that's, that's why I'm in the job. That's, that's, I'm here to try and help our government officials, our, our, you know, our parliamentarians to understand that there is a way that we can go that is much lower risk than our sort of stagnated approach to developing policies we put in place for 30 years. And meanwhile, technologies and business models are changing month by month, week by week. So it just, it's to show this a different way, and it doesn't need to be riskier, it can actually be less risky.

Ryan 5:59

Right. Well, and you know, you talked about bringing that kind of entrepreneurial spirit into your work as a Senate, you you were an entrepreneur, right before you became a Senator?

Colin Deacon 6:08

I've not spent a lot of time in the political world. The last five and a half years have been certainly at a deep dive into that world. I don't think I was built for it. But I really am enjoying learning about the pro- the process. And I'm feeling like we're getting you know, we're helping on some of these issues, competition, law reform and policy reform is finally on the agenda we've been, you know, we've been advocating for that and trying to give the arguments as to why it's important. And it's great to see this government acting on it. We really are huge believers in open banking, that's the foundation of our economy, it should be as innovative and not just stable and secure, but also innovative, delivering the best benefits to consumers and the economy, overall, small business. And that's now moving forward. So some of these files that we've really been pushing, and putting a lot of time into to try and say, Hey, this, there is a better way. It's great to see the moving. So I'm really, you know, honored to be here to tremendous responsibility and toughest job I've ever done, but I'm really honored to be here.

Ryan 7:21

Yeah, and so I'm really interested, cause I think that that kind of entrepreneurial mindset and perspective that you're bringing to the role, there's this kind of interesting tension in my mind that I want to kind of, you know, extract with you a little bit, because on the one hand, there is that, you know, at least in the tech startup world, that kind of ethos of like, move fast and break things, you know, try stuff, see what works and learn from it quickly. And then you've got the Senate with with kind of that, you know, traditional mantra of, you know, being the the chamber of sober second thought. And I'm wondering how those two things come together, how you can kind of bring that kind of startup mentality, while at the same time, in your case now operating in what is, you know, a deliberative body, you know, how do we find that right balance between encouraging innovation while also making sure we can safeguard the public interest?

Colin Deacon 8:14

So the only major innovation that's ever occurred in the Senate was introduced by this Prime Minister in terms of the appointments process. And not appointing purely partisan members. The Senate is not very innovative organization, but it's got a lot of creative folks in it now that are not traditionally from the political world. And there, they've got a, they've got a deep level of experience in a lot of different sectors, a lot of different walks of life, the diversity of the Senate now 55% women, over 35% BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, people of color. It's it, you know, 80, over 80%, independent senators that vote, not because of how they're told, they may be, some may be encouraged by the government to vote a certain way. But there's only a very small number that are actually directed on how to vote. And so it's, it's not a very innovative institution but that is a major change that's occurred. So the minds in the Senate, the people making the decisions, I think, have got a far more modern appreciation of the challenges that we face and the need for change in a lot of different areas. I tend to focus on, on innovation. But it's the same in a lot of sectors where we're not seeing change, and stagnation and how we do things means we're not iterating, we're not getting better, we're not learning from our experience and improving. And that I think, is a general concern of my colleagues across every sector. So you know, sober second thought is not just about is it a good idea to make that change? It's, it's about, what is needed to help us keep getting better in all these areas where we're seeing legislation, or, or public policy having an influence? And so that from my standpoint, you know, this change that has been made, has really opened up a lot of opportunity for the Senate to be a driver of careful, thoughtful innovation across our government.

Ryan:

Yeah, and it's an interesting point that as you have a Senate that looks like the country and is more representative of the country in a lot of ways it's tapped in to where some of those challenges may be, and makes it a lot more visible.

Colin Deacon:

Well said.

Ryan:

Yeah, I'm curious on, you know, on this, as we've said, you know, one of your priority areas has been this notion of digital government, of how do we kind of modernize government operations for the digital era. And last year, you put forward a motion in the Senate that called on the Government of Canada to modernize its digital service delivery, I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that motion and what your intent behind it was?

Colin Deacon:

My intent was to start to raise a concern that we can't afford government. In this country, the way we're delivering government is not affordable. And it's not delivering the analog delivery of government services is not serving Canadians where they're at. When we all sit there, accessing whatever we want, when we want, asymmetrically from the hours of a business. And in the form that is intuitive that we can, we don't need to read the two pages of instructions for a one page form. And then, you know, fill it in by hand, and put it in an envelope and go buy a stamp and send it in, or fax it with a check. Like, we don't have to do any of that.

Ryan:

Yep.

Colin Deacon:

In our lives. So government is not meeting citizens where they're at. That's one thing. So it's government isn't meeting citizens, where they're at, how we're doing it is way too expensive and not scalable. And if we need to make a change to a program, it takes a long time to implement through an analog system, because there's a lot of training and forms and materials in a digital system, version 1.27 can be up tomorrow, and 2.8 tomorrow, the day after that. I mean, you know, so there's no question that we can scale improvements, which is a risk reducing factor. All of these risk reducing, these changes. Huge potential to serve Canadians better, serve them more cost efficiently. But when you start to see in my mind, the the the government processes, just not keeping up in any way. You say, How else are we going to do this? We can't afford to do it by retraining. Everybody that, you know, there's there's a culture that that is just not keeping up. And so we just thought, let's, let's at least see what we can what, what conversations come forward in the Senate. I've had, I think four colleagues speak to the motion now all from different perspectives. It's wonderful to see. And we also have the PBO pickup on it. And the parliamentary budget officer did a study. And one of the key findings of that study that was released in the fall, was that when government is, is designing a digital program, there's no key performance indicators identified upfront, you know, how is this going to serve Canadians better? How is this going to be reducing the cost? How is this going to allow us to deliver a service in a more agile manner? And I think a lot of that is because of the huge fear over what happened a few years ago with Phoenix. You know, that's a whole other conversation that I would be happy to chat to a little bit, but it's, you know, there's it's an a great unfortunately, it's just caused this emotional barrier.

Ryan:

Yeah. It's, I mean, there's a few really interesting threads on this that I'd love to pick up on. Maybe actually starting at the citizen side of this. So you know, you made the comment that there's a sense that government's not keeping up with expectations and what people have kind of come to expect in terms of modern service delivery. I'm just curious, you know, when you're back home in Nova Scotia, talking to people that you represent, do you have a sense of kind of, of what their biggest frustrations are when they are dealing with government today? Is there anything that kind of on on kind of, you know, a human level that you hear time and time again, from people that's really, you know, kind of challenging for them as and in terms of what their expectations of what government service delivery should look like in 2024?

Colin Deacon:

I'll tell you about one in just my own life, just, I turned 64, I got a thick, a 12 page two sided letter from ESDC, about applying for Canada Pension Plan and old age security that I can now go and fill out by hand all the information that they already have. It's a different department. But Government of Canada has all that information.

Ryan:

Yep.

Colin Deacon:

Why am I why did I not get a link to say do you give me permission to shift this over? And here's the three choices you need to make. Like, to me, that's just outrageous.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Colin Deacon:

And I understand that it's not easy to make that change. But it's an it's, it's terribly worrisome.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Colin Deacon:

So cybersecurity risks are in the lives of people every day, fraud risks are in the lives of people every day, increase costs, slow service service that is designed for needs other than than what they are experiencing. Those are the sorts of things I hear a lot. I hear a lot from small business, in terms of regulatory stagnation. In our regulation, the you when you have technologies and business realities changing on a month to month basis, and regulations are stagnant. That is no longer protecting citizens or our environment. That's, that is a real problem in the economy. And I don't blame the regulators, they don't have the ability with that old model to keep up.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Colin Deacon:

They just don't, there's no capacity, and there's not going to be enough people, we've got to change how we regulate in order to keep up with reality of the world. So each of those elements says the model has to change at all levels of government. I'm not pointing a single finger, just at the federal government. This is federal, provincial, municipal.

Ryan:

Yep. And, and I'm curious to get your thoughts on why you think we aren't keeping up, because this has been a little bit of a theme on the podcast here, the last number of episodes as kind of this pervasive sense that we're a little stuck in the mud here in Canada right now, you know, when it comes to modernization writ large, including digital modernization. And, you know, I just, I think some of the things we've been talking about, you know, you're talking about applying for pension and old aged security, there has been discussion around making tax filing automatic, where people, you know, essentially just kind of say, yes to tax filing, which is a big change. But this isn't unprecedented. Other countries in the world have been doing this for years. I was talking to somebody from Denmark a few weeks ago, they've had automated tax filing for 30 years, you know, so it's not impossible to do this. But I do get the sense that we are a little bit behind here in Canada and getting further behind. I think on your website, you know, you flag, the UN egovernment rankings where we have dropped down to 32nd place from you know, being in the top 10. So I'm, I'm curious, I have my own theories about it. But I'm curious, you know, your vantage point, what you think is is leading to us kind of being held back and not being able to modernize our institutions themselves?

Colin Deacon:

None of this relates to technology, to be honest. It all relates to leadership. And we don't have a requirement, for example, that our senior public service leaders must have a certain level of certification and understanding certification related to their understanding of digital technologies. We are not digital first. In anything that we do, we were actually, in the middle of the pandemic, it's a pandemic started with CERB, right? That that was a digital first delivery. Thank the Lord that the CRA had the capacity, ESDC didn't, CRA had the capacity to deliver that service. And I might, I commend those involved with the incredible job they did of moving public servants out of their offices into their homes to operate safely. And to and I wrote an op-ed on this and also to get CERB up and running in three weeks. Phenomenal. We can do it. But there's no, that was that was just because of the pandemic. That should be what we are, we should have that attitude with everything we're doing right now. So that's, it's all comes down to leadership as far as I'm concerned. It's just not been a priority. It certainly is not something Canadians will ever, I don't I don't see it being a political priority in an election. A ballot box issue. I wish it was, but I don't see that ever happening. It has to be something where a government says the only way we can meet citizens where they are is if we change how we deliver services.

Ryan:

And it's you know, I think we've seen in other countries crisis has been kind of the engine of growth on some of this, right, in terms of sparking governments into thinking about how they do service delivery, how they, how they kind of digitize their operations in a different kind of way. And as you said, there were some very bright lights during, during the COVID pandemic, where, you know, the old rule book got thrown out, things had to happen quickly. I worry now we have a little bit of backsliding happening on that. And I think your, your notion, though, around kind of the competencies around this, I mean, that's near and dear to my heart, we do a lot of work on education with senior executives in government. And I often say, you know, in today's world, every policy issue is a digital issue. There's almost nothing the government does that isn't touched by technology in some way. It's hard to imagine how you can be an effective leader, if you don't at least have a basic understanding of how the digital world works.

Colin Deacon:

If it's, if you're not priorit- prioritizing it in your decision making, it ain't gonna happen as a leader. And that, to me, is probably one of the biggest concerns that I have is that in order to get promoted in the public service, you should have to have a skill set and a track record that proves that this is a priority, and that you understand how to do this, how to manage the digitization of your department in an effective manner, and how to collaborate with other departments in a citizen-centric approach. I mean, we've got our first minister of Citizen Services, fantastic. Never happened before. It's a great way of saying it, because it is about citizen services. You know, I look at what you mentioned, Denmark, phenomenally digitized. Estonia, everybody's speaks to, to me, Ukraine, fighting a war while they were been fighting a war in eastern Ukraine, and then the overall invasion, they have delivered delivered services to their, to their population on their phones, anywhere they are in the world. It's phenomenal. The DIA app is is you know, and I encourage anybody who gets a chance to, to listen to podcasts or a bunch of them on my on my website. But Slava Banik who was involved in that managing that, that work speaks about the fact that basically, they've got the same number of developers as they do policy people to change the regulations, and the and the policies around all different types of services across government to make them more easily digitized. But they had the same problems that we have, when they started. To state registers, to databases, nothing interacted with each other, everything was done differently. Citizens had documents and services and things that were all complex and hard to follow and not clear. There was, everybody had disparate authorities, they didn't need to work together to get things done, they could just go and do something on their own. And it's that lack of coordinated leadership that leads to problems like, for example, Phoenix, you know, no CEO would have ever initiated a digitization project that had 80,000 variables, all to be launched on one day, period. Would never have happened.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Colin Deacon:

So we talk about risk around these projects. The risk is managed by leadership.

Ryan:

You know, you bring up Phoenix. I mean, do you think the public service has learned the lessons of Phoenix? Or are we at risk of having, you know, Phoenix 2.0 coming up in the next couple of years?

Colin Deacon:

If we'd learned the lessons of Phoenix, firmly, it wouldn't be a ghost sitting on everybody's shoulder right now.

Ryan:

Right.

Colin Deacon:

And I think it is.

Ryan:

Yep. Yep. I don't disagree with you on that at all. I'm glad you brought up Ukraine. I think it's a really interesting example internationally, right now, in the last couple of years, they've done some some impressive work there. And we'll be sure to put a link in the in the notes for today's shows, for folks who want to find out some more about what's been happening there. I want to go back to the parliamentary budget officer report that they came up with this fall and in response to your motion, because, you know, as you said, one of the things that it noted was this kind of lack of KPIs from departments to actually measure success. I mean, I thought it was, it was, it was quite stunning coming out of that report, this notion that most departments, you know, couldn't answer the question of, in some cases, how much money they were spending on digital transformation, let alone what kind of benefits or savings were potentially coming out of there. And this seems to be a pervasive issue, you know, in digital for as long as I can remember of how do you actually quantify results? And I'm just, you know, I'm wondering, do you think there is a role for the Senate, the House of Commons for elected officials to be kind of setting some direction around this to ensure that we actually are measuring KPIs around this, or do you think that might be counterproductive to kind of have that top down mandate around it?

Colin Deacon:

I think it's got to happen in the PCO. That's where I think it needs to happen. If it doesn't like, the last clerk, who was a clerk twice, when she retired, said it's time for government to start to digitize. Well, she had two kicks at the can. I found, you know, great to hear that. But I found it frustrating. Because if the clerk and the central the, the Department of Government of the whole of government is not thinking about this and prioritizing it, then you know what that means to the decision making right across government, it means it's not a priority, don't even bring forward proposals. So it just, for me, it just keeps coming down to leadership and experience and confidence around how to move forward. We've got to create some successes. And I, you know, that's one or two, early successes to say, this is how it's done. We've got to change how we procure. We've got to stop defining the solution we want to buy, and start defining the problem we want to solve. And get innovators at the table in a XPrize like process that keeps iterating and improving and selecting the most qualified groups to deliver the most appropriate product. We just have to change how we're doing things because what we're doing is not working. And if we're constantly going to multinationals to deliver the solution we want to buy, we're going to keep getting very expensive products that are not actually designed to meet our needs.

Ryan:

Yep.

Colin Deacon:

We've, we have, we have a system in the Senate for for managing our, our ERP system, not intuitive in any way, shape, or form. It's hard for people to use. I don't know that it has actually saved any time. It's great for documenting with everything that's going on. But has it saved any personnel time? Was that a consideration when it was chosen and implemented? You know, these are things that we just have to change how we look at it. And I'm not, I'm not blaming folks, I'm saying, We've got to give those who want to make these decisions more, more authority to move ahead. Because there's I think a whole lot of folks that are scared by it. And we shouldn't be asking them to do it if they're scared by it. They shouldn't be the ones being promoted into these roles.

Ryan:

Yeah, yeah. And I'm glad you brought up procurement, because this is something we've talked about on the podcast a lot. It is, I think, a perennial challenge around, you know, having a procurement system that, frankly, was designed to, you know, buy large equipment and build bridges, not to develop software, which is directly pointed out as a much more iterative process, and our rules and regulations and frankly, kind of our risk tolerance around it hasn't caught up to that, you know, and we and we kind of try to take what we view as being safe approaches to procurement. But I think as you rightly pointed out, actually makes it more risky in the end.

Colin Deacon:

We manage risk in a manner that creates it, in this, in this area. And so I look at it and say, how do we, how do we create an economic opportunity out of government services? And it's a massive economic opportunity, if we could create a govtech sector that was one of the best in the world, we start selling our solutions that we've created, our innovators have been empowered, we've crowdsourced them to get the very best ones to solve all these individual problems. And then they can take those businesses and start selling those services elsewhere, they can start pivoting into, into new benefits and the power of innovators needs to be harnessed to solve our biggest problems in this country. We should not be trying to, to force those who live in Ottawa, in a, in a relatively comfortable life relative to many Canadians, not experiencing many of the same challenges that other Canadians are experiencing, to be coming up with every solution to every problem. We should crowdsource it out in the country, with innovators who have proven that they can build stuff, really understand the problem first, really understand the problem, understand the constraints, and build innovative stuff that that meets those needs. And we have it every day and they do it fast. That's the other thing, is that when they're when they're not constrained by a whole lot of arbitrary constraints that have been created in Ottawa by people who are not experts in innovating. Let's just solve the problems for them.

Ryan:

Yeah, no, and I think harnessing that that innovative potential that is out there is a real challenge. I mean, I've, I've seen that in, you know, my career both when I was in government and being outside of government, you know, talking to folks in the startup community and innovation community who would on the one hand, be very open to trying to help solve public problems, but just can't figure out how they will even be able to interact with government in a reasonable way to be able to do that. And so harnessing some of that potential, I think is a really interesting and difficult challenge.

Colin Deacon:

I built two businesses, I never even tried to sell one thing in Canada.

Ryan:

Yep.

Colin Deacon:

And it not even it just was not going to happen. I knew it was going to be too difficult. Too kin- time consuming. And we see it, I still hear complaints for different folks who are, you know, a year and a half in, five years in to a procurement process with the federal government, with digital solutions, and still waiting for approvals. World leaders making strides elsewhere in the world, and this sitting there going, this is crazy. You know, and that's because people are scared of the risks that they don't know how to manage. And so what do they do, slow it down, get more and more approvals, you know, from other people that really aren't experts in this space. And, you know, they're not comfortable with it, with the issue. If they were, we'd be moving faster.

Ryan:

Yep. Yeah. This has been really fascinating. I wanted to, you know, as we kind of move to wrap up the conversation, talk a little bit about leadership, because it's a theme that you brought up a lot over our conversation. And I think rightfully have pointed out that we need leadership to be able to move forward on on all these issues that we've we've been raising. You know, I was I was looking at a speech that you gave in the Fall, I think it was on September 28 of this past year, where you were talking about the motion that you would put forward in the Senate around digital government. And one of the things you said was that you had put the motion forward because you wanted to build up a sense of urgency to the government so that ministers and public servants could make these changes. And importantly, what stood out for me was that so they could benefit from increased political support. And what I want to ask you was, you know, how aware are our political leaders right now of these issues we've been talking about; digital government and digital modernization, you know, when you look at your colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Commons, I mean, does this kind of unsexy business of modernizing the public service actually kind of break through the noise of the political crisis of the day? Or is it far and few between where people are actually talking about this in the halls of Parliament?

Colin Deacon:

The answer to your question is no, just break-through. I think people think it's important. But we do not have a digital first mentality. And until we have a digital first mentality within the public service, that's the best thing this government could do right now is instill that in the public service, you will not get promoted. Unless you have a digital first mentality and track record. That's it. To me, that would be an important statement. You know, we've got to create that capacity to execute, that capacity to engage with innovators outside of government in an effective and cost efficient way. The ability to choose projects that are the most appropriate ones to start building momentum, and building traction and building engagement, you know, either. So back to your move fast and break things, where you started. I had one of my directors in one of one of my companies said, if you weren't embarrassed by version one of your software, you waited too long. Because you've got to get that customer experience, that customer feedback, in order to know where to go with it, and how to make it better. That ability to iterate you, we can iterate in government, you can have early adopters and a group of early adopters that are there because they want they want to be early adopters, we have that across the private sector, all over the place. And 5% of the population are high risk early adopters. They want to be the first to buy just about anything or use just about anything. That there's a group that wants to do that in our economy, let's find them, they're in every community. And let's and let's use that group to help, when we get started, to help us get better. And and know that the first version is not going to be the best version. I mean, you know, the Wright brothers didn't build the Concorde. So you know, it takes time. So, for me, that's, that's where I'm entirely focused. It's a, it's a, we've got to change the mindset, we've got to have a digital first mindset. And the public servants have to help the parliamentarians to make the right decisions on this, on this file and see the benefits in terms of cost of government reducing, improve citizen services, you know that that increased agility to make programs more efficient and effective. So you get, they get the benefit politically from doing this, but they're never it's never going to be a doorstep issue. Well, maybe someday, I don't know. But I don't see it as being a doorstep issue.

Ryan:

And yeah, in the near future anyways, and it doesn't surprise me you know, for you to say that this is not, you know, high on the radar of a lot of your colleagues. What I was interested in and I did want to make sure I asked you about this was, I think one of the interesting initiatives that you've taken to try to elevate some of these discussions within the halls of Parliament has been the creation of a new caucus group on emerging technology. And, you know, I think what's particularly interesting too, is that it's been a cross partisan group, right? It's, this is not one particular political party. I think there's co-chairs from each of the major political parties, and then including yourself from the Senate, I'd be curious for you to maybe share with our listeners a little bit about how this this new caucus group came together, and what the goals are for it, and then what you're hoping it'll be able to accomplish?

Colin Deacon:

Well it's thanks to Michelle Rempel Garner. It was her idea. She phoned me and I said, I'm in how do I help? That took, I think, the first 30 seconds of the conversation. It's, it's really important. Our first meeting, we had six people. The last most recent meeting, we've had 30, I think that were there. 30 parliamentarians. So it's, it's it's growing, it's very... Michelle is, her office is really doing it off the side of their desk, she's carried the weight of this, she's very, very passionate, very capable on this file. And as she's brought it, she keeps bringing in parliamentarians, I've not been as effective in getting the engagement of my colleagues in the Senate yet. But it's something that in my mind, it shouldn't be, we should be able to get access to translation services, we should be able to get some clerk support so it's not being literally done off the side of a desk, but that, that takes forever to get that in Parliament. So it's a great initiative. It's, it's, you know, we've got to keep putting, putting on our shoulder that we ought to keep building support and building interest. But you know, if cybersecurity risks that we're seeing an increasing rate, undetected for a year. You know, if we're not starting to really get concerned about the core, our core ability to deliver citizen services, we're not considering the risks appropriately. And so, I know, for me, I'm coming across huge increases in fraud, that, that are coming my way, hearing, hearing about these terrible stories that the least empowered Canadians are suffering, and they don't have the ability to fight back. Those who are most empowered are made whole, quite often. You know, there's just problems right across the board, because we're not keeping up. We've got too many systems that are based on software core- cores that are older than me. And that's, you know, I'm in my mid 60s. We, yeah, the world is changing, so too fast, we're not keeping up, we hope to engage more parliamentarians. But we also really need to look to the public service.

Ryan:

Yep.

Colin Deacon:

It's their time to step up. We've got a great history of public service in this country. But it is not stepping up on this issue. It has to.

Ryan:

Yeah, well, I think it's great that these issues are being elevated and being discussed more amongst your colleagues. And I think you're right, it's going to take political leadership, and the public service coming together to really be able to drive progress. I want to ask you one last question as we wrap up, and that's really, you know, what keeps you going and motivated on this. And, you know, if you kind of look into the future, you know, if you want to take a look 5-10 years down the road, you know, what's your hope for where we're able to go in terms of kind of Canada's journey on modernizing and being able to meet the challenge of the digital era?

Colin Deacon:

Both my parents were overseas, there's five members of each family that were overseas in the Second World War. They, what we got done, you know, the, the designer of the, the Hawker Hurricane, you know, one of the key fighters in the, in the Battle of Britain. Fighter planes designed by a Canadian woman built in Thunder Bay in a factory that didn't, didn't basically didn't exist. And over five years, one helped to win the the World War Two. We can do things we've done things like help create the United Nations, we've done things like create, that helped to create the G20, we've done things like lead acid, acid rain reduction with the United States in this country, we've founders of of the cop process through Real. You know, we've been leaders on major global initiatives, Canada's got a place in the world, a trusted place in the world. I dream of the day when Canada is the country that the world looks to for the safest, most secure digital services that you can buy, that your data is protected, your your, your access to services is protected. And the world looks to us as the leader, because we are increasingly digitizing, that's not changing. But if we don't aim for the top of that mountain, we're never gonna get there. And that means that there's got to be a lot of political leadership, there has to be a lot of public service capacity. And there's got to be a, an approach that allows us to manage risk. And by embracing it as an essential part of the process of innovating, not by thinking it's a horror story. You know, right now, people are terrified of risk. We're not going to get anywhere as a country. I'm worried about our future. I'm worried about my grandchildren's prosperity if we keep having a public service and an approach to government services that are terrified of risk.

Ryan:

Yeah, it's, I- listen, I think it's an inspiring vision. I think it's a great notion to end off on and it's one that I share with you and I, I sincerely hope, you know, conversations like this kind of keep helping to move this forward and getting people to think about, you know, how we can achieve that Canadian level of ambition and leadership on these topics. And, and speaking of leadership, Senator, thank you for your leadership on this. Thank you for raising these issues in the Senate in the Houses of Parliament. I think that's an incredibly important to have your voices as part of this. And so thank you for everything you've been doing to bring visibility to these really important topics.

Colin Deacon:

Thank you, Ryan, for all you do in that regard and glad to be able to chat with you.

Ryan:

It's been a pleasure. Thanks so much. And that's the show for this week. My big thanks to Senator Deacon for joining us on today's podcast. If you haven't been following his advocacy on digital modernization in government, be sure to check out the links in the show notes to learn more about the work that the Senator has been doing on modernizing government and getting Canada back on track in the digital economy. As always, tell us what you think about this episode. If you're watching on YouTube, share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Email us at podcast@thinkdigital.ca or use the #letsthinkdigital on social media. And while you're at it, make sure to like and subscribe. And if you're listening to us on your favorite podcast app and you liked this episode, be sure to give us a five star review afterwards. And remember to go to letsthinkdigital.ca to sign up for a newsletter and to catch up on past episodes of the podcast. Today's episode of Let's Think Digital was produced by myself, Wayne Chu and Aislinn Bornais. Thanks so much for listening. And let's keep thinking digital.

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