Anna's thoughts

Peel Public Housing digitization

D GOVERNMENT IN A DIGITAL ERA: MPS 699 Peel Region Public Housing Digital services Digital is “the application of the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations” (Lecture 1 notes, 2019). According to Egger and Bellman (2015) digital technologies is one of important factors that is going to determine the way government delivers its services in future. This is because most governments around the world are transforming from analogue to digital services (p.1). In this piece, I am going to critically analyze digital services that are offered by Peel region. I will first give a definition of public housing and a brief background of Peel public Housing. I will then review the renewed digital service delivery of public housing services in peel region and assess how this service is doing in terms of speed, access and simplicity. According to the lecture notes “government should provide services timely manner and that these services should be simple and accessible at customers’ discretion” (Lecture Notes, 2019). I will therefore examine the peel region public housing application process and assess its effectiveness and efficiency. The paper will draw upon the importance of digitization of public services to improve the efficiency, effectiveness of public service governance and delivery. This because the current digital services for Peel region housing subsidy does not completely address the needs of its recipients. To begin with, Public housing is the provision of affordable housing to those who are in need. “Housing is considered affordable when it takes only 30% of a family’s income” ( (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). It is administered by the province of Ontario through different municipalities. Public housing is available for people who are in temporary financial need (Peel region). The eligibility of subsidized public housing is dependant on household income, individual assets, and family composition (Peel Region). However, “only one application is required per family” (Region of Peel). Peel region is the largest land lord in Peel Region who provide subsidized housing that are lower than the market prices (Peel Region). For example, I will be working in Peel housing responsible for Peel which is the largest housing provider in Peel. However, there are also Cooperative housing associations which provides subsidized housing, members of co-operative housing schemes are active in in decision making of these cooperatives. For example, the Indo Canadian housing cooperation in Brampton. In addition, there are non profit housing corporation which are run by either municipal or the private sector who also provide subsidized housing in Peel (Peel Region ,Market rent units). Peel region is composed of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. Previously, one would have to go into the office and do some paper application either own independently or with the help of a worker. According to Eggers & Bellman (2015) Peel region is still in its early stages in the digitization journey. This is because applicants can only do the application online as compared to previous paper application. Whilst the digitization of housing application by the region of Peel has made the initial application process a bit accessible, the applicants are not able to upload the required supporting documents online. As a result, applicants have to mail the required supporting documents or drop them in person in he drop box. This makes the application process longer and is disruptive to public service provision which leads to inefficiencies. In addition, applicants do no have access to check the status of their application online. One must call and have someone check for the status or to update his or her application. This is problematic because many of the potential applicants may not have access to a telephone to stay updated due to their social location. This impede “openness, transparency and inclusiveness” that is cited by the OECD digital government tool list. Gaps in the provision of public housing services is costing the government money due to the time public service workers spend on giving updates to applicants over the phone instead of simply accessing it through digital services. Peel region have many workers who are paid to provide services that could have been provided on line. It is argued that implementing digital services can be impeded by competing priorities and lack of funding (Eggers & Bellman, 2015, p. 12). I therefore suggest that Peel region invest in designing digital services that reflect customers’ needs as a way to efficient in the long term. This can be done by first educating the Peel public service workers on digitization so that they understand the complexities in public service digitization. This is also supported by Eggers and Bellman (2015) that digitization leads to significant cost savings and reduction of duplication of services. This needs leadership and political commitment to change the public service culture. Culture transformation of an organization is also important in adopting digitization and to ensure digital savvy workforce (Eggers & Bellman, 2015, p. 13). This is supported by the OECD digital government tool list that it is important to “develop a data- driven culture in the workforce” (OECD tool list). In addition, Peel public housing services should invest on user reserch in order to invest in user friendly digital services. This can be achieved by carrying out user research. “User research is a study of identifying the users of a service, their behavior and their motivations for using the service so as to consistently deliver exceptional customer service.” (User research guide) retrieved 12 April, 2019 from https://www.ontario.ca/page/user-research-guide . For instance, Peel housing services can identify the needs of its users through research from the recipients of public housing and new applicants. This will lead to the creation of best design and systems of public services that is guided by user motivation and needs in a timely manner in a way that is cost effective. This will lead to a more responsive and faster service delivery in a way that value users reduces number user inquiries and complaints. (User Research Guide). For instance, instead of calling to check staus of their applications, users will access it through online. Designing a digital service like that of Amazon and Netflix which attract users is important ( Benjamin and Potts, 2018). This is because customer are used to the efficient digital services that are provided by the private sector. For example, customers are able to order something online and receive the item within hours of odering through Amazon prime. Therefore, Peel region is encouraged to mirror such service delivery that is responsive to customers’ needs. This is supported by Benjamin & Potts, (2018) that people expects the government to deliver public services that mirrors that of online banking and online shopping (p.1). Furthermore, including users in the design of Peel housing services is important in designing customer centered digital services. This can be done through iteration to check for its effectiveness. Through this, customers will be able to check their status online and to get quick feedback on every inquiry they might have. This requires a social justice lens in the be applied in discussing, designing and developing the digital services. This will include the society’s most vulnerable including Aboriginal peoples (Dirksen, 2018). Therefore, inclusion requires empathizing with the users so as to understand their needs. For example being in other people’ shoes will enable public servants to be responsive to their clients’ needs.The OECD tool list also supports the engagement and participation of users in policymaking and policy making and service delivery as a way to empower the users and a move towards decolonizing digital services (OECD Tool List). As a result, the public service in Peel region will move from its early stages to the maturity age of digital journey as cited by (Eggers & Bellman, 2015). This will keep the region of Peel competitive on the global market. However, reaching maturity in the digital service is not going to be an easy task for Peel public housing department as there are many challenges to it. It also requires determined leadership who are committed and are equipped with the political will to tackle this. In conclusion, I have examined Peel housing digital services and concluded that it still have a long way to go to provide a user based digital services that is simple, accessible and fast. I have proposed several suggestion to be followed to achive a mature digital services that will address users’ needs. Educating Peel public servant and collaborating with users in system design will help in achieveing the best digital service and policies that are tailored to its users. References Benjamin, K., & Potts, H. (2018). Digital transformation in government: Lessons for digital health? Digital Health, 3, 1-5, 1-5. Dirksen, A. (2018). Decolonizing Digital Spaces. Principal's Symposium: Imagining our Digital Future. Eggers, W. & Bellman, J. (2015). The journey to government’s digital transformation. A Deloitte Digital global survey, 1-39. Government in digital era Lecture Notes 2019 Finding a Market rental unit retrieved April 12, 2019 https://www.peelregion.ca/housing/wait-list/market-units.asp Peel region http://www.peelregion.ca/housing/wait-list/ retrieved April 07, 2019 User Research Guide retrieved April 12, 2019 from https://www.ontario.ca/page/user-research-guide Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation retrieved April 10, 2019 from https://cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/developing-and-renovating/develop-new-affordable-housing/programs-and-information/about-affordable-housing-in-canada

Module 8: A Nascent Movement Towards Digital

What are you taking away with you after this class?

The digital government course helped me a lot on how digital government is done and how to deal with issues that may arise for its effective implementation. It was important to note that a significant number of current public service employees lack digital literacy. Therefore, it is important for the government to advocate for digital literacy to enable its employees to serve their clients better. I also learn about digital inclusion which advocates for inclusion of all communities in the digital services. For example, if it is a questionnaire it should include all different sexual identification. This can also be done by providing a user-friendly digital service that caters for customers’ needs, avoiding a lot of jargon and making it shot and precise. Ethical considerations are also important in designing digital services for example being mindful of not offending its users. This will be part of moving towards digital justice. However, as Canadians we still have a long way to go in achieving digital justice through digital decolonization. This is because a lot of Indigenous people in remote place do not have access to the internet which will enable them to access the digital services. Considering using First Nations’ languages in providing digital services to these communities will be a move towards digital decolonization.

How will that change the way you approach your upcoming co-op work? This is going to change how I am going to deal with customers at Peel region. I am also going to advocate for a provision of digital services for municipality clients. I will be dealing with society’s most vulnerable communities, the public housing recipients. It is important that Peel region digitizes public housing services. For example, clients should be able to submit a request for maintenance of the property online and be able to get feedback on the request in a timely manner. This will alleviate problems of lack of maintenance in the public housing. It is important that the interface is centred around customer’s needs.

What is the most important question you have after this class?

How do we convince our managers to implement a customer oriented digital services?

Service Delivery and Public Engagement

This week’s module reflects on the effective public participation and engagement in service delivery. I was able to gain awareness of what machine mediated service delivery mean to public service. It is important to note how digitization of public service has provided citizens unprecedented access to government services. We drew upon how digital tools have facilitated diversified conversation between the government and it serves. This changes the way government communicates or receives feedback in a way that keeps the public engaged. public participation provides sustainable decision. this is because decisions wil be coming from those might be affected by the decision. To put this I to practice, we were given different ministries and assigned to find effective ways of communicating to our respective audiences. Our group looked at the ministry of pizza whereby we were asked to convince stakeholders from banning pineapples from pizza. We suggested town hall meetings to address our customers on this issue, this will be followed by face to face surveys at our pizza store. online surveys for those who purchase pizza online and provide feedback to our stakeholders. These consultations are important to help us hear our customers’ needs. This is also important for the government of Canada to adopt service delivery that mirrors its users’ voices through engaging the users. This will help me as a public servant to initiate service delivery that reflects public’s needs. However, it is important to take heed of obstacles that might affect the good ehgagement between the public and the government, for instance, fake news from the social media nowadays can affect good communication.

Data, Evidence, and Decision-Making

Module 6 was interesting in reflecting on how information is important in good decision-making. Therefore, the government should be able to effectively analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and act upon that information to come up with sound decision. The module also emphasises how evidence-based decision-making changes in an era of abundant data. We explored different kinds of data that are available to government that is open, crowdsourced, collected, disclosed or procured from a lot of sources. For example, in our group we draw upon how the availability of data on the environment would effectively impact decision makers in terms of building infrastructure or environmental emergency plan. If people are living close to flood plains, it is important for them to have enough data on possible floods to prepare for the emergency. This is important in avoiding casualties in case of floods. The data is also important for real estate buyers to make informed choices when buying houses. Lack of data on the environment can lead to devastating outcomes. For instance, in my home country Zimbabwe, more than 100 people perished and some are still missing from the recent cyclone Idai that ravaged the three Southern African countries including Malawi and Mozambique. These governments failed to make use of data available or did not have such data to make informed evidence-based decisions. There was no emergency exit plans in place although they new that they were going to be hit by a strong cyclone Idai starting week of March 11 2019. Children were left at mercy of this cyclone as they were allowed to attend schools even when the weather stated other wise. This led to young kids perishing in the eyes of their fellow students, unfortunately leaving everlasting scars on these children. I have therefore realized how important evidence-based decision making might have alleviated some devastating outcomes of this cyclone. Dr Clark reflects on how public policy can be informed by evidence-based decision making that is derived from effectively data analysis

TECHNOLOGY AND PLATFORMS

 Module 4 reflects on Government as a platform for technology. This means that government provides the information and allows those have the conviction and ability to build the foundation. It is important for me as future public service to note that when government creates the common platform and design services, it will allow more innovation on new service design. This will enable an improved public service that is user oriented. I also learnt about the 4 models of platform which includes the Whole, peer, ecosystem and crowd sourcing each one with a unique focus. For instance, whole focuses on the role of the government as a centralized provider and crowdsourcing whereby governments collaborate with citizens, companies, other government organizations or NGOs in innovation. As a future public service, I advocate for the crowdsourcing model which includes every stakeholder in innovation. I also learnt from group activities where we explored for example what questions will you ask—and to whom will you ask those questions—in order to help you make decisions on how to procure, build, or implement that new technology in universities for under graduates? The second part of module 4 reflects on the need for policy to bridge the gap in technology in the government. This is important to me as future policy analyst which will help alleviate shortages of IT and policy design. This is supported by Bracken (2013) when he cited shortages who understand both tech/design and policy which is caused by institutional barriers to modern digital service delivery. In conclusion, it is important to put users first and allow policy changes to be user oriented and responsive to digital services

Design Thinking and System design at University of Waterloo

Module 3 and 4 were very interesting because they were hands on approach. As a team we were supposed to create a policy and program that is linked to system design. As a group of four we were tasked to create a design system for university students that will enable them have timely access to the faculty members to improve their grades. We narrowed down our system design to be for third and forth year students at University of Waterloo. Our justification was that 3rd and 4th year students need more access to faculty members because they are more likely to write a thesis paper. We reached this decision after consulting former Waterloo undergraduate students and we gathered that accessing faculty in a timely manner was an issue to scheduling issues. Faculty members were usually available through their office hours such that if one is far away from the university he or she is more unlikely to find time to meet with a professor. We discussed how accessing faculty members depends on the size of the university. One of our team members cited how for her meeting with faculty members was not an issue since her university was so small that professors are most likely to know everybody by name. for me as a former student of York University we had a communication site called Moodle whereby students would chat on their own about the subject issues. The course director is also able to address question through this site and everyone could access the course director’s responses. However, if you happen to have personal issues you need to discuss with the professor you would have to conduct him or her during office hours. As a result, we suggest we create an App that would enable 3rd and 4th year students to see availability of different faculty members who are free to help with issues that might arise. Time availability will be updated by department administration, for example, the political science department would be responsible for updating the app with professors of that department’s availability. Student will book to meet with any professor who is available to help, and they will use their waterloo cards to access the lounge designed for this.

After these modules i realise how complicated design thinkiing and system design can be in creating a policy in a digital era. This is because a lot of issues need to be taken into consideration when designing this. this includes but not limited to human centred, inclusiveness and democratic. we will begin by making a prototype for the department of  social sciences using iterations for us to come up with the best product suitable for our users. this is important as a future public servant its is important to use iteration when making a prototype of a product so that you check usability at each stage.

"Totangira poyi?" meaning Where should we start from? he would sing in one of his songs. Zimbabwe has lost a music legend Oliver Mutukudzi, business man, philathronpist, human rights activists and a goodwill ambassor to UNICEF. his unwavering support for human rights will ever be missed, not forgetting his inspring and unique music. He was 66 years young. Tuku"s music has managed to inspire and appeal to many generations. I grew up listening to his music being played by my parents. One thing for sure with his music is that it never grow old, I can still enjoy and dance to his 1970s music. Each and his music contains rich Shona tradition lessons, idioms, proverbs and Shona sayings from it. I am inspired by a lot of his song but the one the resonate with me most as some one who is far away from home is Tumirai shoko. It is about how one misses home whilst in a foreign country. It is a personal blow to many Zim-Canadians as we would always anticipate to see Tuku at his unforgettable shows in Toronto. I remember one of his fans i know conducting his manager in 2018 asking whether Tuku is going to come and perform in Toronto and was told he is coming to Canada in 2019. We were all expecting him this year, not to mention my own daughter who couldnt attend his show the last time he came to Canada she was 18. Its the darkest our for all Zimbabweans. My heart goes out to his wife and family, may the chief comforter console  them. RIP Samanyanga! 

USER RESEARCH FOCUS

After module 2 I now understand how important user research is in digitization. The idea that User research is a study of who the users of a service are, how they behave and what their motivations for using the service are (Barber) I now know that user research is important for an organization to consistently deliver exceptional customer service. Usability testing is also important to check how effective is the service of app. It was interesting to find out how the University of Waterloo closures alert system is not user friendly for most of the University Waterloo services users. This is because it fails to satisfy the needs of a lot of users in terms of road or building closures notification in a way that affects their punctuality. For instance, the road closure due to street car testing leads to a lot of workers and students late. Module two is important when I am doing my coop because as a public policy servant, I have understood why usability testing is important in evaluating whether the service is going to provide the intended benefits to its users. Listening without bias is also important for the leader to make informed decisions. This is because when we listen, we get the right information rather than speculation. Finally, out of Lucia Hsieh’s 12 lesson about guerilla testing, the points that resonate with me are: Location of target audience is a factor for willingness to participate. That is if trying to do a guerilla testing at the mall people are less likely to agree to participate because they fear you might be trying to sell something to them. In addition, it is important to be confident when approaching potential users for credibility purposes. The third point that resonated with me is to be prepared for rejection so that it will not affect my confidence. All these are useful to me as a public servant in making sure the government delivers exceptional customer service. When we focus on the needs of user will also make our job easier as public servants. 

I'm in aspiring public service worker with a strong desire for social justice. 

A glimpse at digital government

An introduction to digitization of the government was of great interest to me because I  learnt new ideas on digital government. As a woman from a “developing” country Zimbabwe I used to think that my home country is still far behind in terms of digitization of the government. But after the introduction, I realized that Zimbabwe its not that far behind considering that “developed” countries like the UK adopted digital government just recently in 2011 as cited by Eaves, (2018). This means to say that other “developed” countries like Canada adopted digital governance later. However, this is not an excuse for a “developing” country because other developing” countries like Estonia are far ahead some “developed” countries with government digitization. It has been cited during the lecture that one can even apply for citizenship online. I also learnt how government digitization in Canada fell short to that of the private sector. This can be attributed to security issues which makes government processes to delay. To the contrary, one might argue that government has a laisse faire attitude towards serving the public since the government has no competition. Copeland gave a convincing argument that can compliment effective leadership and management which calls for a transformational leader who can transform an organization or public sector unit for the better. He ascertains that organizations need to change the way they do business for technology to work. He prefers an organization to have operational excellence and basic technology rather than the other way around. This is also supported by Eaves when he cites that digital units can be useful tools in bringing about agility and user-friendly designs (2018). All this can be useful during my coop as it can help transform the public sector in a positive way. This will enable efficient  provision of public services

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