New Brunswick is one of the ten provinces of Canada. It is one of three provinces labeled as “the Maritime Provinces” due to its location in the Atlantic Region. With a population of approximately 700,000, New Brunswick is home to 2.3% of Canada’s overall population of approximately 38 million. New Brunswick is primarily rural with the population of its largest, St. John, numbering close to 67,000. The primary industries of NB are those you would expect to see in a rural coastal state; fishing, mining, finance, forestry, and tourism. But, surprisingly enough, information systems and services are also among NB’s primary industries.2 SNB played a significant role in this.
Historical ContextIn 1990 citizens of New Brunswick were “crying out loud because of red tape.” In response, the government of New Brunswick conducted a budget consultation tour of the province and talked to citizens to understand their needs. Citizens were complaining about paying high taxes and not getting adequate value from these taxes. Moreover, citizens were demanding more and improved services.
The consultation tour results called for more service centers, however, a number of key decision makers were becoming increasingly convinced that more service centers would increase costs and would not necessarily solve the problem. Utilizing mapping resources available at the province’s New Brunswick Geographic Information Corporation (NBGIC) it was determined that geographic coverage of the province in terms of access to offices was sufficient. This supported the view that having more offices would not necessarily result in improved services to citizens confirming that “spending good money after bad”, i.e., building more offices, was not the right strategy. NB officials began to seek a new model for service delivery. The Department of Finance, as the agency primarily responsible for the services of interest at that time, developed a proposal to regroup a number of government offices into a one-stop shop where one worker could deliver the services of several departments. A pilot project, including a comprehensive evaluation, was conducted in two communities by a third party. The pilot was a success and the vision of “customer-centricity” was born. But it was born in a much more modest way than the SNB of today. It was born to support the delivery of 15 or so services – to keep customers and businesses from having to run to 15 different doors to get services; today SNB delivers over 270 services to customers and delivers a full range of other benefits to the province of New Brunswick. Where previously, having individual services available at as many as 975 government offices presented a confusing and expensive way for citizens and businesses to interact with government, the new model saw most of the informational and transactional services offered through a network of 36 strategically located service centers. The government offices which previously provided these services could then concentrate on their core business and leave the “service delivery front end” to SNB’s single-window.
The initial strategy and vision was to be customer-centric and to focus on helping customers and businesses come to one place for most of the services they need from government. As the integrated, technology-based service delivery model began to grow, the government faced the dilemma of deciding where it would reside; in a new organization or in an existing one.
At this point it became apparent that the New Brunswick Geographic Information Corporation (NBGIC) was going to have an ongoing role in the SNB story. Created in 1990, NBGIC was an organization designed to maximize government investments and improve services through integration. Three different departments responsible for land assessment, real and personal property registries, and mapping services, were merged to create NBGIC. This agency integration laid the ground work for the creation of SNB as a service delivery organization based on an integrated, extra-governmental business model.
As an extra-governmental organization, a number of the characteristics of NBGIC fit the design goals of SNB. NBGIC already worked with a board of directors to provide oversight to planning and operations. It needed only slight modifications to accommodate the service delivery business. Thus, in 1998 NBGIC changed its name to Service New Brunswick and took charge of government service delivery.
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