By Mike Gifford on 16/10/2018
The Government of Canada (GC) hosted Open First Day on Friday, September 28.  It was a really interesting opportunity for hundreds of people in public/private sector to get together and share their experiences.  
I’d like to start by congratulating them on the title of the event.  It wasn’t Consider Open Source Day or Learn about Open Source and Government Day.  It Was Open First Day. Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source and Open Government.  
The site for this conference was also forward thinking as it was all built on GitHub.  More and more government microsites are hosted on GitHub...
By Mike Gifford on 04/05/2018
Robot from DrupalCon Boston
There is a lot of excitement about AI (Artificial Intelligence). It shows promise to solve many problems, including some for greater digital inclusion. I see great potential, but also some significant limitations. We need a measured approach to machine intelligence to learn how algorithms can best help.
The Google Translate Problem
Let’s admit it. Google Translate is getting pretty good.  However, it isn’t good enough to be as good as a professional translator. At some point, for some languages, we’ll probably get there. However, I still do not see a point that for legal documents that we...
By Mike Gifford on 12/06/2017
Canadian Flag Behind Chicken Wire
Originally posted on LinkedIN in two parts.
The Government of Canada’s Web Renewal Initiative has failed. It may not be public yet, but there really is no way to redeem this half-conceived initiative to centralize all government pages onto a single website -
This goal was lifted from the UK Government’s Government Digital Services (GDS). The goal of the GDS team was no less than digital transformation. Our government appears to have mistaken the site as the end goal, rather than a platform with which to experiment with new ideas in government usability. The GDS is...
By Mike Gifford on 09/10/2016
Recently I was asked if there were any products or services that would give users equivalent or greater accessibility than WCAG 2.0 Level AA. This is part of the feedback process for a report on web accessibility for state and local governments.


In addressing this I wanted to make it clear that, at the root accessibility is about eliminating barriers to communications. Tim Berners-Lee saw the potential for the web being a great equalizer as it could allow people to communicate in a way which was completely inclusive. In practice, the web has evolved to provide barriers to 10-20...
By Mike Gifford on 05/02/2016
Open standards, open-source, open data, open government and open dialog. These are just some of the great benefits of the open web and why you should consider getting involved in the Open Source Initiative. It represents a real shift toward transparency that allows citizens to become engaged and can empower civil servants in their everyday work.
The Open Source Community
In Canada, the biggest success for open thinking was the Web Experience Toolkit. This project engaged existing open source projects like jQuery & Bootstrap to address the challenge of providing a multi-lingual, performant...
By Mike Gifford on 07/01/2016
This article was initially posted on Dec 22nd, 2015 in the Hill Times.
If you have been on a federal government website in the past year, you may have noticed that it looks a bit different. Or you might not. The differences to the look and feel of the sites are a bit subtle for your average user. Almost all Canadians are unaware of the imminent  plans to shift these sites to a proprietary content management system hosted in the US.  
The move from having government sites hosted in Canada and supported by Canadians, to being managed in the USA by a huge American company should concern people....
By Chris Wright on 02/09/2014
Wetkit Logo
I had the opportunity to attend CodeFest 2014 in Ottawa.  This two-day conference was a great chance for anyone who “works in the web” to get together, share their expertise and learn from their peers.
Codefest is a free, volunteer-run conference centered around the Web Experience Toolkit (WET). 
WET is an open source project led by the Government of Canada that is developed openly on GitHub. The focus of WET is to develop an innovative, user-centered web experience that can be widely deployed through an open and collaborative process of development.
Topical Chats and Technical...
By Mike Gifford on 16/04/2014
Back in 2007, Russell McOrmond, Phillip Smith and myself decided to set up a service for the Canadian NGO community to make it easier to match individuals with their elected officials. It seems like a pretty basic component of any effective democracy, but it still isn't something that is available to Canadians.
At the time, Statistics Canada offered a database of postal codes to riding associations. For $3000 you could buy a database on a CD and have the rights to buy updates every year. The license allowed us to resell access to the database through an API (Application Programming Interface...
By Mike Gifford on 31/10/2013
It is really, really embarrassing that a kid in elementary school could hack into any government computer system, however a 12 year old boy has pleaded guilty to doing just that in 2012. I'm not sure how much is known about how he did this, and no doubt he is a very bright and curious child, but this really needs to be a glaring warning about a systemic problem with how governments in Canada manage security. 
In my dealings with government IT, I find far too often that departments go only so far as to apply a CYA approach security. Far too often this comes down to choosing a big vendor, and...
By Mike Gifford on 11/06/2013
Buckminster Fuller was a real visionary, but he died in 1983 and the backbone of the Internet TCP/IP was only standardized in 1982, so it would be hard to imagine how he would have been able foresee either the World Wide Web, let alone the re-thinking of intellectual property that has come about with the growth of Free Software (or Open Source Software). He definitely thought out of the box as he strove to "make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation."
One of his main critiques of our economic system was that capitalism forces value...