October 20, 2022

Honourable senators, it’s been nearly eight months since Russia launched its heinous invasion of Ukraine. I’m proud of Canada’s steadfast support for Ukraine through this war. But what I would like to share today is not about the war. It’s about Ukraine’s ongoing digital transformation despite the war. When elected in 2019, President Zelenskyy immediately prioritized the digitalization of state services to better address the needs of Ukrainian citizens and to unleash the innovative potential of Europe’s largest IT sector. He immediately established the Ministry of Digital Transformation, responsible for creating a human-centred and transparent digital state that minimized the administrative burden for citizens and businesses.

The ministry led the creation of the Diia mobile application in its first six months of existence, powerfully demonstrating that diia means “action” in English. Today, Diia has earned the trust of 18 million users — half of Ukraine’s adult population. They have simplified access to 70 public services, documents and digital credentials like digital passports and driver’s licences. Ukraine is well on its way to having 100% of government services accessible online by 2024.

Wisely, they haven’t just digitized services but reinvented and simplified how those services are delivered. For example, registering a business was once a 64-field paper form. Today, creating a business and becoming an entrepreneur involves completing a few check boxes in 10 to 15 minutes. This is what happens when policy, practice and partnership efforts are synchronized.

Despite Russia’s constant and aggressive cyberattacks, Diia has delivered cybersecurity resilience and personal data protection, thanks to its advanced design and Ukraine’s extraordinary IT army. Whether at home or abroad, Diia has proven invaluable to Ukrainians during the war, enabling them to easily access critical information and assistance.

So how did they do it? I believe that their success rests on the recognition that government is a monopoly and the lack of competition removes pressure to innovate. To counter this fact, President Zelenskyy’s government has consistently displayed strong political leadership and commitment in support of Diia. They’ve also recognized that the risk of inaction is far greater than any other risk.

Colleagues, the United Nations reports on the e-government development status of all member states. Canada has declined steadily over the past 10 years. We now rank thirty-second, down from eleventh, and are far behind digital leaders like Denmark, the Republic of Korea and Estonia.

Estonia, the recognized leader in e-government, has accepted Ukraine’s offer to share its Diia source code, an offer that is available to Canada as well. We’d do well to look to Ukraine for ways to digitize our economy and increase the convenience of government services.

Thank you, colleagues.

Back to top