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Evaluation of the OASIS Computerization Project - Final Report

Posted on:
November 26, 2019

In 1997, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Ontario Administration of Settlement and Integration Services (OASIS) initiated a Computerization Project to build the capacity of agencies delivering its ISAP (Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Services), HOST, and LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) programs. The Computerization Project ended March 31st, 2002. Prior to moving ahead with new computerization investments for the agencies, CIC hired RealWorld Systems, a technology consulting firm, to evaluate options for future support

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) contribution of $12.5 million resulted in five key technology investments for the sector:

  • 74 ISAP/HOST-funded agencies received local area networks (LAN), which varied in size according to the number of counsellors employed, with a total of 450 work stations.
  • 350 LINC language labs were set up across the province, varying in size from 5 to 15 computers, with a total of 2100 computers;
  • A Settlement.org Extranet site (private web site) was established for the exclusive use of selected organizations providing immigrant settlement services in Ontario;
  • A Settlement.org public Internet site was developed to provide settlement information to the general public, media, prospective immigrants, newcomers to Ontario, other government and social service agencies without access to the Settlement.org Extranet. A sister French site was also developed at Établissement.org; however, it was not part of the current evaluation.
  • Support to the purchase and installation of computers and LANs was provided in the form of staff training, management conferences and technical support through Metafore.

The three key research questions addressed in the course of this evaluation were:

  1. How does the computerization project, with all its elements (LINC computerization,ISAP/HOST computerization, Settlement.org Internet site and Extranet), impact services to immigrants and refugees?
  2. How should CIC invest in computerization over the next three years?
  3. What changes, supports, and improvements are needed to the computerization project to further benefit immigrants, refugees and the agencies and staff who work to support them?

Findings

CIC’s investment in technology for the settlement sector has radically transformed the capacities of ISAP/HOST-funded agencies and enhanced LINC language training. Without such a significant contribution and commitment – $12.5 million over four years – the agencies wouldnot have been able to make these technology investments. The OASIS Computerization Project provided not only a technology infrastructure for the settlement sector, but the essential tools andsupports that encouraged its integration into the agencies (i.e., training, technical support, and specialized information via Settlement.org Internet and Extranet sites).

ISAP/HOST-funded agencies have integrated technology into their daily work: computers, email and the Internet are essential working tools that benefit the settlement counsellors and managers,their agencies, and their clients. Staff automatically turn to their computers to access the resources they need for clients, to meet their own ongoing information needs, to communicate and refer with others in the community, and to track and manage information. Staff in ISAP/HOST programs draw upon the Settlement.org Internet and Extranet sites to meet many of these information, networking, and knowledge requirements.

The use of computers as a language learning method is also engrained in the curriculum and teaching of agencies providing the LINC program. LINC students draw two considerable benefits from computer-assisted language learning: gaining English-language skills and acquiring computer skills. Given the growing expectation of computer skills for employment in Canada, this latter benefit of providing computer-assisted language learning should not be understated.

Since most ISAP/HOST agencies do not currently collect performance measures relating to client success and caseloads, the full impact of computerization can only be evaluated through anecdotal evidence. However, there was sufficient evidence through interviews, site visits and surveys to conclude that computerization is a vital resource for agency staff. Without online access to updated government regulations, job postings, agency service information, application forms and so on, agencies would have difficulty in meeting the needs of their clients.

As agencies and the settlement/immigration sector continue to use computers and particularly the Internet, we project that the potential for greater efficiencies and information flow will increase rapidly.

Recommendations

  1. CIC should adopt a per-workstation funding formula to support the technology infrastructure of the settlement sector.
  2. Agencies should be assisted as they prepare to integrate technology into their operating costs and functions.
  3. Individual agencies should manage their own technology services, using a coordinated approach that is directed within the agency by a designated senior staff person.
  4. The Settlement.org Internet site should further define the needs of its key audiences and continuously revise the site to increase its effectiveness.

These recommendations place a burden of responsibility on agencies, and they will need help to build the capacity to manage their technology. However, centrally managed services do not make sense in this distributed, diverse environment.

Furthermore, agencies will never build the necessary technology capacity until they receive adequate funding for basic, core operations, and until they are helped to develop the skills to hire and manage their own providers.Technology planning is similar to other core management capacities, including the management of office space, administration and human resources. It is difficult to do, but an essential part of organizational life.

Summary

In 1997, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Ontario Administration of Settlement and Integration Services (OASIS) initiated a Computerization Project to build the capacity of funded agencies. This report provides an evaluation of options for future support.
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