The Undefined Role of the Ontario Public Service in Third Sector, Digital Transformation

The Ontario Public Service, of the Government of Ontario, includes ministries, agencies, and Crown corporations. Its workforce consists of over sixty-thousand public servants. For most of its organizational-lifecycle, the OPS has been structured to design and deliver social services directly to the population of Ontario (Government of Ontario, 2007).

As described in Transforming the Ontario Public Service for the Future, over the last twenty years, the OPS has “transitioned from being an organization which provided service-delivery directly to clients, to an organization which now focuses its core operations on policy and program design, as well as financial administration” (Government of Ontario, 2017).

Over this time period, “most developmental services” were refocused, closed, or transferred, to non-profit facilities” (Government of Ontario, 2017). The Province no longer “see’s itself” as being in the role of ensuring the quality of social services delivered; or the “level of productivity at which these organizations that deliver them, operate”. This has created a new sector of the Canadian Economy often coined as the “Third Sector” (Scott et all, Imagine Canada, 2006).

While the Province of Ontario has claimed that along with refocusing, closing, or transferring developmental services” to the Third Sector, “I&IT systems were developed to transform the delivery of social services by municipalities and non-profit organizations,”, and improve government oversight of the direct social service delivery function” its is debatable whether the “digital transformation” has truly occurred in the Third Sector, yet alone, improved oversight of delivery, and the delivery, of social services to clients (Government of Ontario, 2017).

In the meantime, the Province of Ontario, is “now viewed as a global leader in emerging areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security and robotics” and the Government of Ontario’s policy is to “hold itself to the same customer service standards as private sector businesses,” being first province in Canada to achieve an all-of-government digital” (Government of Ontario, 2012).

Over this time-frame, the Third Sector has grown to more than 90,000 organizations which work in areas ranging from healthcare to sports, the arts, social services, education, international development and the environment. The Third Sector “represents 8.1% of Ontario’s GDP and 10.5% of the provinces’ labour force (Imagine Canada, 2019).