It’s Ontario’s Turn to Get Serious About Technology

Since being sworn in as the premier of Ontario, Doug Ford and his PC provincial government have begun implementing measures to deliver on the party’s platform promises. Among other things, these include finding efficiencies to reduce costs in the province’s public service – without cutting frontline workers such as nurses, police, firefighters, and other emergency services.

It’s a tall order and there is a key part of cost reduction that is absent from the new provincial government’s plan – a technology strategy. Without prioritizing a provincial technology strategy, the new government is missing a major opportunity to cut costs, as well as drive Ontario to be a world-leading innovator.

Cutting IT overhead versus services or staff will enable them to deliver long-term value and leadership for their constituents while fulfilling campaign promises.

While Ontario’s technology sector has been booming, the provincial government’s technology strategy has lagged behind others from across Canada. BC Hydro, BCLC, Vancouver Airport Authority, Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta Energy Parks, and Farm Credit Canada all have strong technology strategies – part of which is facilitated in the cloud – that enable them to deliver more cost-effective services to the people they serve.

British Columbia

Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR) was the first in the world to introduce a self-service border control solution designed to automate the administrative functions of United States Customs and Border Control. YVR’s solution is available across more than 1,200 kiosks operating in major international airports in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, and has processed more than 100 million travellers. While the solution was previously hosted in an on-premise data centre, it was migrated to the AWS Cloud platform to maintain high availability, scalability, and security requirements, as well as include a disaster recovery environment.

A well-thought-out technology plan ensured that the transition of all YVR customer airports from the on-premise system to AWS was a complete success. In fact, Vancouver International was the first Canadian airport to use the cloud to power its passport terminals. The addition of new customer airports is already underway, and the system will continue to grow, leveraging the flexible nature of the cloud as needs change. YVR has already benefited from the ability to quickly resize systems as needs change and this will continue to be beneficial as the adoption of this system grows.

BC Hydro provides a strong example of how to save significant costs by processing data in the cloud instead of using the traditional IT on-premise model. The third largest electric utility in Canada had to produce a report using high-performance computing for just a few hours a week, but using dedicated hardware would result in very low usage most of the time. The newest generation of BC Hydro’s models wouldn’t be economically feasible: the relatively low average usage meant that the cost of maintaining on-premise hardware to meet the peak load would be too high to justify. The utility computing/on-demand model of AWS and the cloud ended up being the perfect fit for BC Hydro, providing cost efficiency while maintaining high-security standards.

Ontario’s Turn

Ontario is already a major technology player and offers ample resources to help guide the new government along this journey. Ontario boasts innovation hubs across the province with leaders in big data and cloud computing, security encryption, and so much more, headquartered there. There’s so much innovation, knowledge, and experience right in its backyard, that there really is no excuse. Ontario can step up its technology game if it’s in the plan.

If the Ontario PCs are serious about finding long-term efficiencies and value for the people of Ontario, then a plan to harness technology should be one of their first priorities. Cutting IT overhead versus services or staff will enable them to deliver long-term value and leadership for their constituents while fulfilling campaign promises.

The possibilities for Ontario are truly exciting. A well thought out technology strategy will not only reduce costs across various government agencies, but it will also help to position Ontario as an innovator in the technology space. No other provincial leadership has put a comprehensive, province-wide technology strategy on the table as a way to reduce costs, speed up innovation, and help bring services faster to their constituents. There is a real opportunity here for Ontario to lead the country in innovation like never before.

Jarrod Levitan is Chief Cloud Officer at TriNimbus and an AWS Community Hero.