This edition's topics – March 2018

Spring has finally arrived! Here is the latest CDS news:

CDS gets its first Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Snow

After a global talent search that began last September, CDS’s first Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Snow, was recently announced! Aaron, who will join CDS in early April, brings a wealth of experience to the position. This includes previously serving as founding Deputy Commissioner and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Government’s Technology Transformation Service, and as the Executive Director and co-founder of 18F. To learn more about Aaron Snow joining CDS, read this blog post or the official news release.

Product Updates

Impact Canada Challenge Platform

The partners: Privy Council Office (PCO) and Infrastructure Canada

The product: A scalable, reusable platform that creates new opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs to help find solutions to Canada’s biggest challenges, similar to Teams compete for a cash prize, the opportunity to grow a business or market, and the satisfaction that comes from solving important problems.  

Current status and next steps:                                      

  • The Beta version of the platform, designed and built by CDS, was launched in November with the Smart Cities Challenge.
  • CDS refinements to the challenge submission function to ensure it offers a more consistent user experience are almost complete, and the product is being handed over to PCO at the end of March.
  • Given that several departments are interested in posting challenges, the Platform offers great potential for reuse and cost savings across the public service.

Rescheduling a Citizenship Interview

The partner: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

The product: A service that will allow people to reschedule their citizenship interviews online, initially for the Vancouver Office, that will move away from paper-based processes. Currently, citizenship applicants receive an appointment notice for their citizenship testing or ceremony just a few weeks in advance. Waiting to confirm that an appointment has been rescheduled can be stressful for applicants, for whom the ceremony can be as important as a graduation or wedding.

Current status and next steps:

  • The product team is testing the content of notifications (emails and letters) with real users, whose first language is usually not English or French, to better understand their existing challenges.
  • An improved version of the letter will be tested to validate if proposed language is easier for applicants to understand.
  • The team will conduct validation and usability testing to build an alpha version of the rescheduling service by the end of April. An IRCC developer will be co-locating with CDS throughout the build.

Improving Access to Benefits for Veterans

The partner: Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)

The product:  An online tool to make it easier for Veterans to determine what benefits, programs and services they may be eligible for.

Current status and next steps:

  • The Code for Canada fellows traveled to Charlottetown, PEI, to present the findings of their discovery work, and visited a VAC Area Office, where frontline workers help Veterans in person or online.
  • The research phase is now underway to identify needs from a specific set of Veterans. After defining how all of the information fits together, the team will develop a prototype before the end of March.
  • The prototype will be developed iteratively, with the most impactful information being integrated first. As the product evolves, more pieces will be built in over time.

Unlocking EnerGuide Data

The partner: Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)

The product: A public-facing application programming interface (API) to open up access to EnerGuide Home Energy Ratings data in a transparent and reusable way. The product will allow homeowners to quickly access the energy efficiency data for their home, and enable researchers and interested citizens to see neighborhood trends in energy use. The initiative helps promote Canada’s environmental goals under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and is also valuable as it involves working with legacy databases, and includes user research with communities that work with unique data sets (including provincial governments and academic researchers).

Current status and next steps:

  • The alpha version of the API is mostly complete, with the architecture established and the major components built. The product has a rich set of automated tests and is being continuously deployed to the cloud.
  • The team conducted user research with NRCan users on a proof of concept web page, that shows users how the API can be used to retrieve data.
  • The team is working to prepare for product hand-off to NRCan at the end of March, which includes technical documentation, and hands-on coaching to NRCan staff.

Canada joins leading digital nations in the D7

On February 21, Canada signed the Digital 7 (D7) charter, and joined leading digital nations in a mission to harness digital technology to the benefit of citizens. The D7 charter commits Canada to working towards core principles of digital development, with a focus on user needs, open government, and a commitment to share and learn from the other D7 member nations: Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, the U.K., and Uruguay. You can find out more on the Treasury Board of Canada website.

Upcoming events

Web à Québec - From April 10-12.

Organized during Digital Week in Quebec City, Web à Québec (WAQ) is the largest french-speaking digital event in North America! The 8th annual conference features various themes including discovery, innovation, design, communications and marketing, and development. If you’re attending the event, come and chat with us! CDS will be speaking at sessions on putting the “User/citizen at the heart of the solutions” and “Private to Public: Transforming Government with Lessons from the Private Sector”.

“Improve digital services by measuring outcomes” - by Gerry McGovern

February’s CDS newsletter included information on a #Canadadotca session with Gerry McGovern. Check out Gerry’s blog post and more resources on identifying top tasks (and measuring success) on

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