Public Services > Local Government

Ontario publishes digital service standard alpha

David Bicknell Published 17 July 2017

Beta version expected later this year, with live version to follow in Spring 2018


The Canadian province of Ontario has published an alpha version of its new digital service standard.

The province’s digital team is looking for comments ahead of a beta planned between October this year and March 2018, and then a live standard available from Spring next year.

In a blog published on Medium, the Ontario Digital Service (ODS) detailed its work towards creating the digital service standard, including learning lessons from other countries and “jurisdictions”, and testing prototypes with public servants across the province.

The definitions behind the Ontario digital service standard have a familiar look about them, with the ODS saying a digital service must consistently meet user needs; achieve policy outcomes; offer value for money (though not necessarily the cheapest possible solution); incentivise adoption of open standards, open source and commodity technology; comply with laws and applicable standards; but does not present or create risks through technology and procurement choices; and is unlikely to fail.

The Ontario digital team said as it has embarked on projects and products with groups and individuals across the provincial government, its collaboration with others has tended to follow three models:

  • Empower: a “self-serve” model that provides guides, templates, patterns, how-to resources, method cards, etc.
  • Enable: active guidance and systemic interventions that include providing direct advice and support to improve services, conducting digital assessments, and shaping and influencing policy development.
  • Engage: a co-design and co-deliver approach that embeds members of the Ontario Digital Service with ministries and agencies.

Now Ontario has published its alpha version of the standard, it expects to be updating it once a month based on feedback and analytics. Later this year, it expects to update it as a beta version and add more guides, templates, and resources based on user input and analytics. In early 2018, it expects to publish a live version with links to communities of practice.

Among the internal Ontario public service groups involved in discussions over the standard were the team; the Open Government Office; Information, Privacy, and Archives; the Accessibility Working Group; I&IT Policy; and ministry and cluster web coordinators.


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