When used meaningfully, technology has the potential to promote opportunity, protect fundamental rights and create a sustainable future. That said, technology is just a tool – the roots of great innovation are never just in the technology itself, but in what that innovation enables people to achieve. With accelerated digital transformation sweeping every industry, we’ve reached a pinnacle where the greatest innovations in the future will not come from the tech industry alone, but through public, private and academic collaboration that fuels new solutions grounded in trust and inclusivity.

In Atlantic Canada, we’re seeing this come to life across the public sector – organizations are collaborating and involving industry partners in the design of processes by actively soliciting ideas, gathering feedback and co-creating solutions.

In June, I had the opportunity to host a panel discussion with three incredible women who are driving this change in Atlantic Canada’s public sector as part of TECHNATION’s national series on digital transformation. I was joined by Natasha Clarke, CDO and ADM, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services, Susan Hunt, CTO, Ocean Supercluster, and Jennifer Sheils, CIO, Horizon Health Network.

Female executive conversing with each other on a Teams meeting.

As Nova Scotia’s first Chief Digital Officer, Natasha Clarke is a local change agent empowering and enabling departments to think differently about their approach in delivering programs and services. When the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services merged in 2019, Natasha was responsible for spearheading the Nova Scotia Digital Service (NSDS) – a new team with the mandate to apply internet-era ways of working to service delivery in the province.

For Natasha, the most important deliverable is trust. Anchored in this belief, her focus is always on the needs of the user – whether that’s citizens, businesses, or other public servants. Once those needs have been met, the next focus is on policy requirements and then operations. From there, her team collaborates to determine the best technology to meet these diverse needs in the most effective way. Through strong partnerships, Natasha is able to shift the ways of work and thinking in her organization to take advantage of digital culture, processes, business methodologies and technology.

Horizon Health Network

In her role as Chief Information Officer for Horizon Health Network, Jennifer Sheils is instrumental in driving healthcare innovation in Atlantic Canada. As the largest regional health authority in New Brunswick, Horizon is leading the Atlantic Innovation Hub, a network of Atlantic-based healthcare operators representing the Atlantic Canada Edge within the Coordinated Accessible National (CAN) Health Network. The purpose of this collaboration is to establish Canada’s leading position in the healthcare economy and champion local healthcare companies as global leaders in this space. For Sheils, the value of this effort has been building an integrated marketplace that’s ready for innovators to introduce new solutions into the healthcare system. With the network’s support, this marketplace can be scaled not just in Canada, but globally. Working together as a network, the Atlantic Canada Edge identifies a challenge in need of an innovative solution – with direct access to the network’s clinicians, resources and data, the group hosts an open call for innovation through an RFP process. Once successful, the CAN Health Network supports that program to scale across its integrated network of providers.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

Fostering partnerships and cultivating collaboration are two key components of Susan Hunt’s role with Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC). As the Chief Technology Officer, Susan is responsible for the organization’s activities related to collaborative technology development and commercialization-focused projects – many of which include Microsoft technology and support. Through her work with the OSC, Susan is a driving force behind the growth of Canada’s ocean innovation ecosystem, while also ensuring that OSC has a strong representation of activities that support ocean health, as well as sustainability and diversity focused initiatives. When considering new projects to take on, her number one criteria is that they are industry-led collaborations between private and public sector organizations. For Susan, it’s essential to have a variety of different mechanisms and models, as well as diversity in the types of consortiums working together to tackle big challenges.

In less than two years, OSC has grown from an idea to a 400+ member organization that brings together startups, scaleups, as well as mature organizations from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Harnessing technology to achieve more

When we collaborate with organizations and experts across a wide range of industries, we can turn ideas into real solutions and make them available broadly. For the public sector, this opens the door to reimagine a future in which all people have access to the benefits and opportunities of the digital economy.

In the next event in our TECHNATION series, I will be sitting down with industry leaders from the prairie provinces on Tuesday, September 28. For more information and to register visit https://technationcanada.ca/en/events/transforming-the-public-sector-prairie-provinces-powered-by-tech-savvy-women/.