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Agency of the Future Report by the Information and Communications Technology Committee

Posted on:
February 6, 2020

This report focuses on the work undertaken by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Committee of the Agency of the Future (AoF) Project. Download the report Executive Summary (PDF).

The AoF Project is a national initiative being developed collaboratively by the Pathways to Prosperity research consortium, settlement service providers and settlement umbrella associations. The goals of the AoF Project are:

  • to strengthen the sector’s ability to capitalize on emerging market opportunities, such as serving new clients
  • to take independent action in the face of extensive policy and program changes, reductions in public expenditure, the appearance of new technologies, and changes in the institutional structure of the settlement industry, including the entry of new competitors delivering settlement services

Agency of the Future aims to do three things:

  1. to help the settlement sector identify strategic business opportunities involving new markets, new clients and new technologies;
  2. to identify promising practices that would allow the strategic business opportunities to be exploited; and
  3. to establish mechanisms for disseminating information about the promising practices to settlement agencies across the country.

The integration of these three processes into a coordinated and recurrent cycle would power innovation within the national settlement sector.

Findings

Two types of themes emerged from the analysis of the stories and postings from the meetings, the wiki, and the case study reports.

The first was about the current use of ICTs. There were numerous ICTs being used by the settlement organizations involved in the case studies. While it can be appealing and valuable to catalogue the types of ICTs in use (e.g. social media, phone apps), it is far more important to understand how and why they are used. A large body of research in other fields (e.g. education, health) suggests that the drivers for deciding ICT use should be organizational and client needs, not the novelty or affordances of the ICTs themselves. The purpose and function of using ICTs are more important because ICTs may require large investments and substantial organizational change;and ICT options can change quickly. So in this report, the typology of ICT use focuses on functions and possibilities.

A look at the Typology of ICT in Settlement Services is categorized by:

  1. Current ICT use by settlement and integration service agencies
    This category focuses on the different ways agencies are using ICTs.
  2. Issues related to the use of ICTs
    This category focuses on the issues that engage agencies as they expand their use of ICTs, including questions they feel should be posed in a survey of ICT use.

The second theme was about the issues and questions that Committee members had concerning ICT use in settlement agencies - noted as capacity issues in relation to the introduction of ICT by the settlement sector. In some cases, agencies had planned and implemented specific projects using ICTs; in others, ICTs were being used experimentally to see if they could help address particular client needs. In both instances, issues - not unexpectedly - emerged as agencies thought about continuing to expand their use of ICTs for delivering existing services and for addressing new opportunities. Issues were also raised by Committee members who were not part of projects, but were trying to understand them. These issues are important for the agencies concerned and for the sector as a whole.

The data collected revealed extensive use of ICTs by service providers. Agencies are using social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), mobile phone functions (e.g. texting and apps), blogs, videoconferencing and webinar tools (e.g. WebEx, Collaborate), Learning Management Systems (e.g. Desire to Learn, Canvas), file sharing programs (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive), videosharing (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo), group collaboration (e.g. Google Docs) and data management tools (e.g. cloud computing, Correlate)

More important than the tools are the functions that the ICTs are being used for. The report identified four broad categories of current ICT use and investment:

  1. Service delivery, particularly training services, to newcomer clients and settlement agency staff.
  2. Partnership development and the provision of services and expertise to other institutions.
  3. Communication aimed at building relationships with newcomers, community stakeholders and service delivery partners; as well communication within the agency and sector, and advocacy.
  4. Data collection, measurement and research on clients and their social media profiles.

The data also indicated important issues associated with the expanded use of ICTs. These involve:

  1. Client preferences for service delivery
  2. Agencies’ expectations regarding ICT opportunities and use
  3. The need for a systematic approach by agencies to ICT planning

Agencies want a clearer sense of how ICTs could be used to serve clients in the most appropriate manner.

Recommendations

The authors make two overarching recommendations.

The first is that the settlement sector -meaning the provincial, regional, and national umbrella associations –as a matter of priority, implement a national ICT review aimed at creating an action plan to guide agencies in the use of ICT and to encourage collaboration within the sector on all aspects of ICT development and implementation.

The second is that CIC act as a leader and catalyst for technological advancement using a mix of fiscal incentives and accommodative changes in the Department’s interface with settlement agencies.

Six specific recommendations are provided:

  1. A comprehensive survey should be undertaken of existing and projected uses of ICT by settlement organizations. The survey would also examine ICT opportunities and barriers to expansion, including capacity issues and impediments resulting from the need to interface with CIC systems (monitoring, data collection, and financial management). The survey would equip both the settlement sector and CIC with the basic information that is needed to act coherently and to prioritize technology investments –such as, information about client preferences and responses to ICT.
  2. CISSA-ACSEI and the provincial and regional umbrella associations should develop a national sector plan for capitalizing on the opportunities that ICT offers settlement agencies.
  3. The settlement sector should establish a promising practice repository where agencies searching for ICT ‘solutions’ could exchange information with other agencies that already have experience in the area.
  4. CIC should encourage ICT investment within the settlement sector by explicitly recognizing it as a legitimate activity in departmental calls for proposals (CFPs), which are the primary vehicles for funding the settlement activities undertaken by service provider organizations.
  5. The settlement sector and CIC should initiate a joint project whose goal would be to establish technical parameters to guide settlement agencies and to promote coherence in ICT development and use.
  6. Provincial and regional umbrella associations should offer staff and executive training in the application and use of ICT.

Summary

This report focuses on the work undertaken by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Committee of the Agency of the Future (AoF) Project. The AoF Project is a national initiative being developed collaboratively by the Pathways to Prosperity research consortium, settlement service providers and settlement umbrella associations.
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