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The Digital Reflection

A reflection on the topics covered in PS 699 – Digital Governance

Week 8 – The Final Class — April 5, 2019

Week 8 – The Final Class

This course throughout was a welcoming and open atmosphere that I loved being a part of. I really enjoyed this course and the ideas it had to offer, I ended up learning a lot about digital governance and the way of thinking that serves as it’s heart. Unfortunately I was sick for the class and I decided to take the few days off to recover rather than pass the plague onto the rest of my colleagues.

With that being said I realize that this class was an opportunity to address topics that haven’t been covered extensively in previous lectures. The one thing that I personally would have liked to seen be covered more was digital autonomy and data privacy. This is something that has been gaining steam within the world as of recent, particularly through famous examples such as the EU’s right to be forgotten and the belief that the data that companies collect on you should be something that you ultimately have some ownership over.

This is ideally what I’m going to be writing my paper on, specifically the ways that we can use the existing PIPEDA legislation to implement and enforce the digital autonomy of our citizens. This was touched on a bit in previous lectures, but I feel like this is one area where there can be a lot of movement. Additionally this is an area of legislation that impacts all the other topics we touched on throughout the course.

But you’ll be able to hear more about it in my paper, coming soon to a dropbox near you.

Week 7 – Service Delivery —

Week 7 – Service Delivery

The question faced most often by all governments is how to provide service to a population. There’s often the situation where the government will develop a new program and then, when it comes to the implementation stage, fumble with tools that are designed for antiquated systems and use them to attempt to implement a targeted and specialized modern program. Governments have begun to now think of service delivery before they even attempt to plan the service; this digital thinking, considering the implementation along with the structure of the service, helps these programs arrive more effectively.

This new digital environment also allows for governments to communicate with their citizens more effectively. We’ve transitioned, as a society, from radio and the one way mass communication that it provided, to the instantaneous back and forth and lateral communication allows by the internet. We need to as public servants use this to our advantage.

Week 6 – Copyleft all the things — March 21, 2019

Week 6 – Copyleft all the things

The Copyleft Symbol, all wrongs reserved

This week resonated on a personal level with me; it made me a little frustrated if I’m being honest. I feel like there are relatively simple solutions that the government can put into place, but doesn’t because there is too much influence from the private sector. This is more of a structural problem in my opinion; an issue with the value that government puts on private enterprise, rather than something with a complex solution.

For example, in high school I was a Linux/Microsoft graphical user interface tester in my spare time. My role was to receive and test pre-beta versions of the operating system and work with others (who were more skilled in coding) to fix bugs and suggest quality of life improvements (I was a nerd in high school). Many Linux distributions used the “Copyleft” licence, which stated that you were allowed to modify and redistribute the code to your hearts content provided that the new copy also has the same licence. The only catch was, you couldn’t make any part of the code proprietary; it had to remain free and open source. Code is essentially a form of data, and data is already considered copyrightable, so it stands to reason that parliament could easily pass a law stating that any and all information produced by any government body would be under such a licence. If government wanted to be more permissive then they could use something similar to the MIT Licence that allows for reselling, given that the proper attribution be given. This would be something that can be done using existing laws, there just doesn’t seem to be a significant political or public interest in the issue.

So with that mini rant now done, I should probably get back to working on my diversity paper.

Week 5, Regulations — March 14, 2019

Week 5, Regulations

The internet has traditionally been the wild west, a place for the greatest advances in society: a whistle-blowers haven, a gamer’s paradise, a library without limits, and a place to find support from others like you. Yet, at the exact same time, it’s also the seedy underbelly of the world, with everything from child exploitation to narcotics trafficking. Governments have an obligation to regulate this new medium just as they’ve regulated other advances in technology; the problem however is that the internet evolves much faster than anything we’ve seen before. What I learned from this module and this past week was that there needs to be a balance. There needs to be a way to regulate the internet without infringing on it’s ability to grow and be the weird and wonderful place that it is. We have to as public servants be cautious of these spaces, as they hold the possibility to harm people, but we must also not be afraid to embrace the innovation, as they also have tremendous potential to help people.

Week 4 — March 6, 2019

Week 4

I missed the first half of class this module due to an interview and was only there for the activity, but I reviewed the slides in my own time and gained an understanding of the content. This week was about how technology plays a role in digital government as it’s important to remember that even though technology is important to digital governance, it’s not necessary and oftentimes looking and thinking about a problem in a critical way will lead to better service delivery than when systems are implemented for the sake of progress. That was the main theme my group came across during the in-class assignment.

We were given the task of looking at improving student access to faculty information and we had to construct a questionnaire to inform the administrators which platform and what tools we should be using. I know from some experience doing qualitative research that questions should be kept as open ended as possible in order not to influence people’s answers. For example, if you ask someone “what’s wrong with the system?” then you’re suggesting to them that the current system is bad and that it needs to be fixed. This may encourage them to answer more negatively and in a way that doesn’t reflect their true feelings about the system. Additionally, having open ended questions allows for the participants to identify their own issues and experiences regarding their user experience rather than accidentally forcing the participants to conform to the experience of the survey maker. This may, and often does, highlight the certain fringe instances where the system will fail, or identify design elements that were considered normal to the design team but were foreign and uncomfortable to use for the general public.

This module was particularly pertinent to me because this is a significant part of my new co-op position at Natural Resources Canada. My job will involve identifying the issues faced by stakeholders of the clean energy technology program, and their concerns may not be initially obvious. I hope that I can bring this into my work there.

Week 3, A Small Project — February 7, 2019

Week 3, A Small Project

This week’s task was to create a small presentation in a small group on the design approach to getting student success. One of the suggestions put forth was that student-professor access was lacking, and so, we decided to focus our project on discovering ways to increase this. Only, there was one problem, there was no need for us to even find solutions, yet we did anyway and put in the time and effort to formulating them. As was mentioned in class, we were all biased towards solutions and, even when it was suggested that we could stop our presentation halfway, we decided to finish it in its entirety. I don’t entirely know why we were so focused on the solution instead of the design (Maybe it’s cause it’s more natural to have an end goal, or maybe it’s because classes like project management encourage solution based planning).

My main takeaway from that class was that it’s ok, and sometimes advantageous for solutions to take a back seat to design. I’m generally someone who is methodical; I follow a predetermined set of actions to get something done quickly and efficiently, but this class has shown me that a little bit of chaos in the planning stage is fine… I just have to get used to it.

Hari’s Log, Week 2 — January 23, 2019

Hari’s Log, Week 2

This week was stressful. No way to avoid that because co-op is inherently a stressful process. On the bright side, class was interesting this week. The focus was on user needs and I really appreciated the focus on user needs over solutions. I volunteered at the London Health Sciences Centre during my undergraduate and one of the common things I noticed about the systems in place for physicians and patients (particularly with regards to the electronic health records system) was the lack of user accessibility. There was such a focus on copying the existing standard that itself often fell short of user expectations and user needs, that the end result was a system that most clinicians and patients disliked.

A focus on user needs and a clear identification of the different user groups and their unique needs would have ameliorated many of the problems that plagued the initial roll out. There clearly needs to be more of a focus on user focused design during policy making.

The Journey Begins — January 11, 2019

The Journey Begins

My first thought when I saw the topic list was that I was excited for the course! The topics look interesting and it seems like they will actually pertain to the field I want to work in (digital healthcare/health promotion).

The first lecture was also very interesting; my previous viewpoint was that the digital mindset was only applied to technological applications. It’s interesting to see that there are other applications for the “digital mindset” present in any interaction between government and citizens.

I’m excited to see where this course will go!