Skip to content

Canadian Government & the Mobile Space in 2012

Back in early 2011, I created a collaborative Google Spreadsheet (available at to compile a list of Canadian government organizations (federal, provincial , municipal +crown/agency) that have created  mobile websites and/or mobile apps. As a supplement to that spreadsheet I also created a visual presentation with screenshots of each entry, which I try to update every 12 months and have embedded below.

Why did I do this?

We are at a crossroads. Smartphones have irreversibly changed people’s mobile habits and how marketers interact with them. While the changes may first be happening on the consumer side, the evolving expectations in terms of government service delivery are quickly becoming evident as people become used to the ease of use and increased efficiency provided by mobile devices.

Key definitions

Let’s take a look at some definitions in this rapidly evolving space. I find there is still a significant knowledge gap when it comes to mobile, often due to misunderstandings of various terms.

  • Mobile phone (also known as a cellular phone, cell phone and a hand phone): A device that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile phone operator, allowing access to the public telephone network.
  • Feature phone: A mobile phone which at the time of manufacture is not considered to be a smartphone, but nevertheless has additional functions over and above standard mobile services. It is intended for customers who want a lower-price phone without all the features of a smartphone.
  • Smartphone: A mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform, with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a feature phone. Usually at minimum features a GPS, camera, high-speed internet access and the ability to download mobile applications.
As a personal side note, I think the term “phone” in smartphone is extremely misleading and should be dropped. Phones are devices that are made primarily to make and receive voice calls, but the vast majority of smartphone users primarily use them for text messaging, taking photos, watching video, using apps, browsing the internet and emailing. I prefer to call smartphones “mini-tablets”  or “mini-tablet PC’s” that happen to have voice-calling capability. This is where the majority of the misunderstandings occur. Folks, these are computers not phones! People have more powerful devices in their pockets than the entire computer system on board the first shuttle mission to the moon!
  • Mobile app (increasingly referred to as a native mobile app): A software application designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices. They are available through application distribution platforms, which are typically operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the Apple App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Marketplace and BlackBerry App World. Some apps are free, while others have a price.
  • Mobile website: A website built on the world-wide-web, but specifically designed for smaller mobile screens. It can be accessed using the provided internet browser on your mobile device without the need for downloading any native applications.

When it comes to deciding whether to build a native app or a mobile website, the most appropriate choice really depends on your end goals. If you are developing an interactive game an app is probably going to be your best option. But if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a mobile website is probably the way to go. In some cases you may decide you need both a mobile website and a mobile app, but it’s pretty safe to say that it rarely makes sense to build an app without already having a mobile website in place (a mistake I keep seeing made in government). It should be noted that the distinction between mobile websites and native applications is anticipated to become increasingly blurred, as mobile browsers gain direct access to the hardware of mobile devices (e.g. accelerometers or GPS), and the speed and abilities of browser-based applications improve. The increased usage of HTML5 is driving this trend. Bottom line: start with a mobile friendly version of your website unless you have a solid business case for an app.

Key statistics

  • In March 2012, eMarketer forecast that 46% of Canadian mobile phones will be smartphones by the end of 2012. That number has already been met.
  • By 2016, that percentage is predicted to rise to 62% *It should be noted that past predictions ended up being extremely conservative
  • In a  recent Canadian government eService delivery study from PWC 10% of respondents stated they currently use smartphones to access government services; 32% stated they will do so in the future. *It should be noted that 46% stated they didn’t know where to look (“lack of knowledge” was the exact wording). In many cases, that’s probably a good thing since they often don’t exist or simply are not user and/or mobile friendly to begin with.
  • Top location-based services that interest Canadians include:
    1. Weather conditions
    2. Road construction
    3. Traffic info
    4. Walk-in health clinics
    5. Public transit info
    6. Passport office
  • Globally, less than 1% of websites are mobile friendly even though over 50% of worldwide internet access will occur via a mobile device in 2012.

So what have government organizations in Canada done to date?

Plenty, but still far from enough. The screenshot presentation below will give you a sense of some of the work that has been done by various organizations in response to these hard to ignore trends. Some noteworthy highlights include:
  • Many federal departments have begun their transition into mobile by creating mobile friendly versions of their websites
  • A new standard departmental mobile URL naming convention seems to be evolving  (e.g. or
  • Some departments have created targeted, purpose-specific apps as opposed to broad departmental apps (e.g. the “Learn to Camp” app from Parks Canada)
  • Various on-line government communities have been proactive be creating their own unofficial mobile tools (e.g. this mobile version of GEDS)
  • No federal department seems to be taking advantage of the powerhouse smartphone features (i.e. gps for location-based services, cameras for bar-code scanning, etc… ) to engage their audiences. So much potential there!

 What’s next?

First of all, I think every government organization should be planning to have a mobile friendly version of its website by 2013. At least something formatted to fit small screens. Yes, that likely means getting rid of 80% of your content from the front page (don’t worry you can still keep your junk on the regular website). In terms of interface you want to focus on having clear calls to action based on the top 20% of actions people actually perform on your regular website (you are tracking this right? you have no excuse in this day in age if not).

In term of apps, there is still debate as to whether it is the responsibility of government to develop these in the first place. The alternate route of course is to focus efforts on the open government movement and on providing open data in order to let private citizen communities develop these instead. After all, citizen apps based on government data (e.g. Apps for Climate Change, or Apps for Democracy) look much nicer, are developed much faster, and are often born out of actual needs as opposed to the shiny object syndrome prevalent in government today. I’m an avid supporter of the open data / citizen route, however let them fill the niche application needs that no government department would ever think of creating. For certain departments (you know who you are) , there are plenty of potential mobile app uses that could directly help with making mandated service delivery more effective and efficient right away. Please don’t say resources are an issue, at least not before taking a good look at how much money you spend on your brochures, posters, cups, stress balls and pens.

As a final plea, please help me keep the spreadsheet up-to-date. Add to it, share it with your colleagues, use it in your presentations, distribute it to your networks and databases. It is meant to help everyone. I will be sure to do my part and update the presentation every 12 months as promised.

(Visited 917 times, 1 visits today)
Published inAdviceGovernmentInsightMobilePresentation


  1. Steve Wynn

    Great timing for this piece Mike as I’ve been preaching many of these very same things lately.


  2. I needed to create you this very little word just to thank you once again on the gorgeous knowledge you’ve shared at this time. This is certainly tremendously generous of you to offer freely all that a lot of people could have sold as an e-book to get some cash for themselves, specifically given that you might have tried it in case you desired. Those solutions also worked to provide a great way to recognize that many people have similar eagerness like my personal own to know the truth significantly more with reference to this issue. Certainly there are some more pleasant opportunities ahead for many who see your website.

  3. Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  4. Charlie

    Great blog indeed ! After 18 years in government, I was laid off as a result of the current downsizing. All is good though.. I am now a student in Algonquin College’s (all new for 2012-2013) Mobile Application Design and Development Program; one of, if not the first program of its nature in Canada! The grad class of 2014 is just getting started with the newest and most advanced web and mobile technologies out there ! For example, as Mike was mentioning, we are building hybrid mobile apps (basically mobile web app in a wrapper to exploit HMTL5 features of smartphones ( explore, tablets etc. Implementations such as this hold great promise for government departments and agencies wanting to redesign their current “static” sites into responsive and mobile ready sites. Sites have to run on every device and platform out there; just not the PCs, MACs and Linux..In essence, it boils down to access to content ( and that is enhanced service delivery). In the near future, see a lot of projects going to MERX due to lack of expertise in the mobile space in government; but there will be a demand for mobile savvy IT experts in the future to support and enhance this systems. Cheers !

  5. Perfect team assembling on a corporate and business
    entertainment day. Thus, choosing glorious Wedding Operate
    Wedding venues could be a robust task.

  6. Admiring the persistence you put into your site and
    in depth information you offer. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information.
    Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding
    your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  7. Support you to describe your midterm additionally short term goals.
    If you have no plan probably preparation, your financial achievements ratio will largely drop.

  8. you are in point of fact a good webmaster. The web site loading pace is
    incredible. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Also, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a magnificent job on this matter!

  9. Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess
    I will just bookmark this page.

    Here is my site: baby food diet

  10. Yes! Finally someone writes about wellness.

  11. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message
    home a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.
    An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

  12. Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness on your post is simply spectacular and that i could think you’re a professional on this subject. Fine together with your permission allow me to take hold of your RSS feed to stay updated with drawing close post. Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

  13. Hey! I know this is sort of off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established blog such as yours take a lot of work?
    I am completely new to blogging however I do write in my journal
    on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can share my own experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

  14. Welly diecast models russian are an excellent source to help
    you in your builds that you can print out which is really a nice
    addition to the video. There were sand yellow dots only, sand yellow and a
    00 brush.

  15. Most private money lenders are these only real option for anyone that wants to decide on
    property with tiny little or no cash down.
    Them kinds of borrowed credit really help men and women who
    are in utter need linked with monetary funds.

  16. The hormone generally known as melatonin is expelled by by the pineal gland,
    which lies in the portion off the brain known as the hypothalamus.
    It iss constructed from an amino acid generally known as tryptophan,
    and it is present both in your blood, as well as the fluid that oats both yor spinal cord and
    brain. The chief thing it does is management of the circadian rhythm.
    It does this by sending signals from the brain to a numver
    of bod organs.

    Melatonin And The Circadian Rhythm

    Thhe circadian rhythm refers to how the human body’s
    processes aare arranged to function within any 24-hour interval.
    Included among these countless functions are those of temperature changes, blood pressure adjustments and waking
    up and going tto sleep. Melatonin concentrations inside our
    body increase as night time draws near but then start to
    considerably decrease the minute light starts peeking through our windows.
    Melatonin eessentially stimulates goood sleep and plawys a big role
    in when we get worn out.

    Managing Sleeeping Problems With Melatonin

    The hormone melatonin is ihcredibly handy as a dietary supplement, given it can certainly help deal with sleeping-related diseases.
    The various ailments melatonin can help include jet
    lag and insomnia, to nam a few out of many, many more.
    The best benefit to mmelatonin is that iit doesn’t suppress REM sleep.
    Whatt this means is that you will not feel weary when you wake up the next day.

    Melatonin And Its Side Effects

    Just like any other drug, the usee of melatonin incluhdes
    particular unwanted side effects and hazards.
    Be aware also that melatonin is not federlly controlled.
    What this means is that far more possible negative effects of melatonin may possibly in fact exist.

    With thaat being said, you should speak abouut your
    intentions to take melatonin with a health care provider befre yoou begin taking it.

    Therse signs and symptoms include amnesia (memory loss), hallucinations and seizures.

    Optimal Melatonin Dose

    You can choose from .5g, 3mg, 5mg and 10mg whenn deciding upon dosage.

    Moore isn’t always merrier in regarrds to melatonin. Furthermore, it
    is sold in a few formats, , including standard, time release, lozenge
    and spray. The time release is typically the best one for
    getting a full night’s rest, while the spray is usually the most advantageous for promptly falling asleep.
    Just mak sure you wait until half an hour prior to it’s
    time for bed to consume it. Consuming it ahead of time in the evening can obstruct
    your ability to stay alert.

    Final Caution

    Talk to a health care professional before consuming
    melatonin in case you are with child. Also, never ever give it to children.
    It’s best suited for adults.

Comments are closed.