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$500M acceleration fund announced for bringing Ontario up-to-date

The hope is to streamline people's interactions with the province by funding 'digital first' projects
Peter Bethlenfalvy
Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation announcing $500 million acceleration fund at Communitech building. Screenshot from announcement.

Ontario announced a new acceleration fund worth $500 million to bring government up-to-date for the digital age.

The fund is part of the Ford government's larger "Ontario Onwards" plan to create a more people-focused government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It will provide seed funding to set up pilot projects that test drive new initiatives that show promise," said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation.

He made the announcement Thursday morning at the Communitech building in Kitchener, alongside local MPPs Amy Fee and Mike Harris.

"Projects must have a strong return on investment, clear near-term impact and focus on outcomes," Bethlenfalvy said. "The fund will focus on projects that emphasize digital first, and lean methods to ensure efficient and affective delivery."

Over 30 projects are in the works or under consideration, all with the hope to improve and streamline interactions with the government, and in turn save time and money.

At the announcement, Bethlenfalvy placed a specific focus on the concept of a "digital identity wallet." It would allow people to safely and securely store digital versions of physical government IDs---such as driver's licenses, healthcards and birth certificates---onto devices.

"A digital identity will make life easier and more convenient while protecting people's identities and helping combat fraud," he said.

Some of the examples he provided of the digital wallet in action was a senior checking into a doctors appointment remotely without having to step into the office; a small business owner being able to apply for permits and license completely online; and farmers being able to renew their farmer vehicle licenses online without stepping into a Service Ontario location.

Both British Columbia and Alberta offer their own versions of the digital identity initiatives, and the Ontario government looks to follow their lead. Consultations on that will begin in January, with the hope of introducing it by the end of the year.

Other projects Bethlenfalvy touched on was the "Moving Justice Forward Strategy," which would expand online jury pre-screening and check-in tools; and a "Digital First for Health Plan" which will update the healthcare system with more online options.

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