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Political Environment as Context for New Models of Collaboration

Canada has been recognized as a world leader in the field of e-government because of its focus on departmental and jurisdictional integration and commitment to respond to citizens and businesses needs. A 2003 survey of worldwide e-government initiatives led by Accenture rated Canada as number one for the third year in a row.

Canada's Government On-Line (GOL) initiative, launched in 1999, aims to make Canada "the government most connected to its citizens with Canadians able to access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing." The federal government committed to providing on-line access to all federal programs and services, through collaboration across agencies and with the private sector, by 2004. A Government On-Line Advisory Panel (GOLAP) was created in 2001 to advice the Treasury Board on ways to achieve this ambitious goal. The GOLAP is made of representatives from the public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors, as well as citizens.

The GOL initiative is focused on three priorities: (1) organization of government information and services by user needs instead of government structures; (2) on-line availability of government information and forms; and (3) provision of transactional services through secure networks.

The first priority requires government agencies to collaborate in order to provide integrated services that better respond to citizen and business needs: "working with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to realize this vision will take time, but this ‘citizen first' view of service delivery is at the heart of what we are trying to accomplish with GOL" (Government of Canada, Government On-Line and Canadians: Overview Report, Ottawa, 2002, p. 7). The design and launch of Service Canada, the federal government information portal, illustrates the citizen-centered approach. The site abandoned the traditional agency-based organization of government services and information for a classification according to citizen, business, or international audience needs. The Canadian Government also strives to better serve the business community by providing one-stop access points where businesses can learn about government regulations and register with several agencies. Ontario Business Connect and One-Stop Business Registration are examples of such services designed to improve government-private sector relationships.

The Canadian government is also committed to providing access to e-government services to all citizens, even those who may not be computer literate. For this purpose, Human Resources Development Canada launched the Ambassadeur Project aimed at providing citizens with assistance in using the Internet at both the local and regional levels. Free public Internet terminals in Community Access Centers (CACs) are available to use for free in urban and rural communities throughout Canada.