Government Can Help Advance New Brunswick’s Innovation Agenda

What does the East Coast of Canada look like a generation from now? Will all the dour predictions of fiscal and demographic cliffs come true? Or will we see an economy and a region transformed by the opportunities technology offers?

At TechImpact, we believe that in the future we will live in a region where our economy thrives and where meaningful and fulfilling jobs are plentiful.

So what does it take to get to that happy future? Action.

We need to take action to carve out the future we want for our children and ourselves. We need to put plans in place now, right now, to make tomorrow better than today. Instead of being timid or fearful of change, we need to boldly take advantage of the opportunities technology offers.

We need ask “what if”. 

Here is a good “what if” challenge. What if New Brunswick established a secure, safe, reliable, trusted electronic identification (eID) for every citizen? An eID would give every citizen a unique identifier to manage their interactions with government – things like health records, car registration, voting, education and more.

It’s been done successfully in other parts of the world. What is stopping New Brunswick from setting up one here?

The benefits from an eID are clear:

  • Streamlining delivery and reducing the cost of government services

  • Cost effectively managing medical records and improving health outcomes

  • Improving citizen access and engagement with government

  • Introducing new ways to deliver education

  • Increasing voter participation

  •  Creating new entrepreneurial opportunities

Today we do so much online – from banking to buying to social networking. Why wouldn’t we do the same for more government services? New Brunswick was once a leader in online service delivery when the provincial government launched Service NB. Now is the time to take the next logical step.

With an eID we would reduce the cost of all government services by simply shifting delivery from “in line” to online. An eID would increase the quality and accessibility of services so that a citizen could access public services from anywhere, at any time, on any device.

To move the eID and other digital initiatives forward, we propose the creation of a made-in-New Brunswick Lab dedicated to innovation and creativity in the public sector.  Look back to when NBTel created such a lab in the 1990s and quickly became a world leader in digitizing and modernizing telecommunications companies.  NBTel’s commitment to innovation has paid dividends for years, including helping set the stage for the launch of successful companies like Radian6 and Q1 Labs.

With the lab in place, local technology companies will create, grow and export both their products and their knowledge.  Their head counts will grow and their revenues will grow.

The private sector ICT and startup ecosystem is growing solidly in New Brunswick. Government has its own role to play in supporting an overall agenda for innovation and economic growth.

By introducing an eID, we will create a model for other North American provinces and states to follow. These jurisdictions will flock to New Brunswick and our companies to draw upon our expertise. This is our window of opportunity. Let’s get rolling.