January 29, 2019

Government in a Digital Era: Module 1

From January to April 2019, I’m teaching the Government in a Digital Era course as part of the Masters of Public Service program at the University of Waterloo.

I’ve had a few people ask me about the course—what we’re learning, what we’re reading, how the classes are going—so I thought I’d share some information about each module that we cover in the class. Today, I’m sharing the course overview from our first module, as well as a link to some of the reflections that the students have done. I’m also sharing what bowtie I wear to class every week because, well, why not?

Module 1: Introduction to Digital Government

Why does government need to change? In this module, we will address the historical precedent for digital government, how it differs from the current operating model of the public service, and the changing expectations of citizens, businesses, and communities in a world where so much can be done through digital tools and machine-mediation.

We will explore what digital government really means, how it is being done around the world, and what lessons we can learn from those that have done it (successfully or not) in other global jurisdictions.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the current context of government service delivery and how digitization is changing citizen and business interactions, expectations, and needs.
  • Gain awareness on the global digital government context and the successes and challenges of other jurisdictions.
  • Critically examine the differences between the culture of digital government with the current operating model of the public service.


Select the most recent transactional website you used and evaluate the experience of using that site. How did you feel? Were you able to complete the task? What brought you delight, and what made you upset?

Think back at the last online transaction you had with a government entity: how did this differ from the experience above? What was better, and what was worse? What does the difference tell you about how government approaches digital?

Resources and Reading:

Student Reflections

At the start of the course, I asked students to share their reflections on each module, and encouraged them to share them publicly where they felt comfortable. A few of them took me up on the challenge:

I’ve encouraged more students to share their thoughts in the open, rather than simply uploading their files. Hopefully, more to come next week!

Bowtie of the Week (and other photos)

I wear a bowtie to class every week, so I thought I’d end this post with a snapshot of that bowtie, and any other snapshots from the class.

Entrance of Master of Public Service program wing at the University of Waterloo

Photo of blue bowtie

→ Digital Government