Growing and supporting Yukon’s information technology sector

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 1, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

Last October, the Yukon government announced it would increase its information technology (IT) capital spending by $2 million in the upcoming 2016/17 budget. This reflects our ongoing commitment to expand opportunities for Yukon’s rapidly maturing IT sector.

Today I am proud to say that we are more than making good on that commitment. When we table our budget next week, it will include an additional $3 million in IT spending. This 46 per cent increase over last year is a win-win for the Government of Yukon and for local industry.

The Yukon government believes in buying locally, and government projects already generate many contracting opportunities for Yukon’s private IT sector. We work closely with Yukon-based system development and infrastructure firms to ensure that, whenever possible, we procure essential IT products and services from Yukon businesses. That will continue to be a priority.

The Yukon government recognizes the increasing importance of the digital economy to the territory. Our increase in IT investment was made with some key goals in mind.

First off, it will provide a foundation for growth for Yukon’s knowledge and technology sector. Our export market for IT products and services is already growing. This spending will accelerate that growth, help make Yukon a hub for innovation, create new employment opportunities, and allow Yukon companies to make investments in staff and training.

It will also allow us to expand our government’s eServices initiatives. We know that many Yukoners prefer to access government programs and services online because it is fast and convenient. Increasing our spending on IT infrastructure projects will provide citizens with enhanced mobility and connectivity, and make the Government of Yukon even more accessible.

Last year, the Department of Environment introduced an online purchasing service for angling licences and campground permits. In the year ahead, the department will initiate work to make hunting licences and seals available online as well.

New eServices will be also be made available by other departments. Yukon professionals and tradespeople who require licences will be able to register, pay for, and manage those licences online. Yukoners will also soon be able to make online requests for birth, death and marriage certificates.

The Department of Health and Social Services will also continue its work on the eHealth initiative. It will soon be able to securely share electronic health records – with the patient’s permission – with appropriate health professionals in the private and public sectors throughout Yukon. This will provide doctors, nurses and pharmacists with the best information available to treat their patients.

The Department of Justice will also see its new courts system go live in this fiscal year as part of its continuous improvement initiative. The system will provide live-time client and case tracking and processing for adult and youth criminal courts. A local contractor has already been hired to configure this system to Yukon’s requirements.

Justice will also issue a tender this year to finalize the best approach for Yukon’s Land Titles office to evolve from a paper-based titles system to a digital system that can provide online access to land title information.

This year’s additional funding will also support the move of the Yukon government’s data centre. The centre is currently housed on the third floor of the Main Administration Building on Second Avenue. It’s cooling and power backup systems are aging, and our need for data storage continues to grow. To meet our future needs, the centre will be moved into a portion of the old Whitehorse public library building.

We believe that supporting the technology and knowledge sector is one of the best ways to grow and diversify our economy, and is an important step toward our goal of a Yukon that is a contributor to the economy of our country. We will continue to make strategic investments to help us reach that goal.