Ontario Digital Service Lab at Communitech wants to help gov’t embrace digital services


The Ontario government today unveiled the Ontario Digital Service Lab at Communitech.

The ODS Lab will be comprised of Ontario Public Service employees and co-op students, and will focus on improving the Ontario government’s digital offerings, according to the CBC. This includes making the Ontario.ca website more user-friendly and making it easier for the public to interact with the government. A team of eight will lead the lab.

“Everyday people can come into our lab, they can tell us a service they are using, and we will directly take the output of the content of that discussion and feed that into the next iteration of the product,” Lab leader Katherine Benjamin told the CBC.

Demonstrations at the unveiling include an online OSAP calculator, and attendees can see how the team uses equipment like a live video feed, live transcriptions, and user research software to improve products based on user feedback.

Minister Deb Matthews, responsible for Advanced Education and Skills Development, and Ontario’s first chief digital officer Hillary Hartley attended the unveiling.

The lab will include an “Empathy Lounge,” where they’ll conduct user research, test user research trends, train employees on user research techniques, and create prototypes for better services based on that research. According to Benjamin in a Medium post, The Empathy Lounge will be a space to encourage “deeper empathy” in public services by collaborating with people from across the public service.

“While we will be doing some testing on existing live digital products, the core focus of the Lab will be to apply service design approaches rather than simply testing services,” Benjamin writes. “This means working with teams to understand the key problems that need to be solved before focusing on any sort of technical solution. Not all problems need a digital solution, but for those challenges that do need digital innovations, the Lab has the in-house expertise to take the outputs of user research sessions and turn them into prototypes than we can quickly validate with real users in the Lab.”

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.

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