Canadians Demand Fully Digital Public Services by 2026

By Greg Tavarez, TMCnet Editor  |  April 30, 2024

Citizens today are growing more accustomed to the experiences offered by private entities like Uber, Netflix and Amazon because these companies prioritize user-friendly interfaces, on-demand services and highly personalized recommendations. Governments may need to take note as well, because this expectation is bleeding over into the public sector. People now expect government services to be just as convenient and user-friendly, if not more so.

Government services are known for complexity, bureaucratic hurdles and very long wait times. Good examples arise when you think about filling out paper forms in person, navigating labyrinthine websites, or being on hold for multiple hours with a call center agent. This just doesn't cut it anymore. Citizens, accustomed to the ease of private sector services, are demanding a similar experience from their government.

It would be nice to go through the driver's license renewal process with a few clicks on a mobile app or to track the status of a passport application in real-time. This is the kind of user experience citizens are starting to expect, especially in Canada.

A new study by Nortal, a company known for modernizing Estonia's government systems, found Canadians are fed up with wasting time and demand a digital upgrade for government services. Canadians spend an average of 28 hours a year navigating government services, which translates to 99,000 years collectively. To address this, 70% of Canadians want the government to offer everything online, and 87% expect this switch within two years.

This shift in expectations isn't just about convenience. Easy-to-use government services allow more people to access vital services like social programs or healthcare enrollment, save government time and citizen frustration and create a sense of transparency and accountability between citizens and the government.

"The recent findings underscore a critical juncture for Canadian public services,” said Darren Hedges, Vice President of Nortal Canada. “Canadians expect and deserve digital-first solutions that are not only efficient but also comprehensive, seamless and tailored to their individual needs. To get there will require a robust overhaul of digital infrastructures and a strategic rethinking of service delivery to eliminate redundancies, reduce wait times and successfully enhance user experiences.”

Getting there will require overcoming a few hurdles, though.

Canadians are divided on sharing personal data for faster online government services. Younger generations (such as Gen Z and Millennials) are more open, so long as they understand how their data is used, have control over it and can see clear benefits.

However, privacy concerns hold back many (48% fear security breaches) with almost half believing the government can't match private sector efficiency and another 29% doubting their ability to deliver digital services at all. Trust in data handling is another major hurdle.

"To regain public trust and deliver the digital services Canadians expect, the government must prioritize data security and privacy while demonstrating the tangible benefits of digital transformation for citizens," said Hedges. "By investing in robust cybersecurity measures, being transparent about data usage and creating intuitive user experiences that rival the best private sector offerings, the government can build a more responsive, efficient and equitable model that meets the evolving needs of Canadians in the digital age."

Simply put? Don't overcomplicate things. Upgrading government services doesn't require fancy technology. The focus should be on making them clear, easy to use and accessible to everyone.

Edited by Alex Passett
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