Digital Transformation of the Government-Citizen Relationship
The province is in the process of developing its first Digital Government Action Plan, which intends to capitalize on digital technology. About 80% of the province’s 622,415 Francophones live in the 26 areas designated under the French Language Services Act.115 The others (20%) must often travel long distances for essential government services, or simply do not obtain services in French. For the Commissioner, this is an opportunity to exploit digital technology and address significant shortcomings in government services for Francophones.
The optimal implementation of digital services by the Ontario government could offer Francophones a broad range of advantages. Digital systems could increase access to information in French in places where a variety of services can be accessed in French through user-friendly portals. They also optimize taxpayers’ money: according to a study in the United Kingdom, the average cost of digital transactions is 50 times lower than in-person service, 30 times cheaper than service by mail and 20 times cheaper than service by telephone.
A study by the Government of Canada also revealed that the cost of an online transaction was just 13 cents, compared to $28.80 for an in-person transaction and $11.69 for a transaction by telephone.116 Expansion of digital services therefore offers the opportunity to overcome expensive obstacles related to the increased availability of services, including those offered in French.
Expansion of digital services also makes it possible to greatly improve the quality of government services by integrating citizens’ feedback. Digital services offer the same level of service to all users and enable the government to respond to concerns more quickly to improve citizens’ experience. Also, digital services can be personalized according to the needs and situations of geographic communities or specific language groups. The recent deployment of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner’s complaint resolution portal is an example of this improved efficiency. The City of Toronto’s customer service call centre, which uses analysis features on conversations and texts to identify key trends, assess performance and improve programs, is another example.117
- For more details, see https://www.ontario.ca/page/government-services-french
- Mowat Report, p. 21.
- Ibid, p.33.