The Information Access Layer (IAL)

Another BC government initiative that is linked to the BCeIDng project is an integration project involving the e-Health Infrastructure. This integration project is called the Information Access Layer.

The Information Access Layer is a multi-million dollar project to support areas of the public service including education, social services, justice and the land and resource sector. This will be a critical layer of the government system which will enable information sharing between public sector and private sector partners for a wide range of information services.

As described in the government document IM/IT Strategic Initiatives and Infrastructure: Guidance for Procurement Staff and Solution Developers ”the IAL is a set of common provincial services that enable secure and appropriate information sharing between various connected systems across multiple organizations.”

The IAL has two primary objectives:

  1. Protected information sharing – provides a common privacy and security policy enforcement engine to enable the consistent application of privacy and security policies and enables effective management, monitoring and auditing of access.
  2. Systems communication – provides a common connection point with common protocols and services for all systems engaging in system-to-system information sharing.

The Information Access Layer will be a common service for routing, privacy policy management and access management. It appears that it is specifically intended to make possible the sharing of information between and among government ministries, agencies, contractors and partners, within the context of a privacy policy. However, because the architecture and standards are currently in the development stage, it is unclear just how these privacy policies will be applied. Many privacy advocates question whether these systems should be developed before the privacy rules have been defined.
And although the government says that it is committed to complying with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that Act provides low privacy protections compared to more recent privacy laws applicable to the private sector. In particular, it has broad permissions for the collection of personal information (if the collection is expressly authorized by law, for law enforcement purposes or if the information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of the public body) and then allows for that personal information to be widely shared.

Government can use personal information for the purposes for which it was collected or compiled or for a use consistent with that purpose, or for the many purposes for which it can be disclosed under s. 33 of the Act, including where authorized by another law. While the Commissioner has said that a “consistent use” has to meet certain standards of reasonableness, the government always has the option of passing a new law if it believes that it cannot meet the standards of reasonableness required by the Commissioner.

One thing is clear. Currently, the systems are being designed without adequate privacy protections being built in. As a simple practical matter, it will be difficult to redesign them later. The result may be that the privacy protections will have to be reduced to permit the systems to work the way they are designed to work.

Advanced Communications and Collaboration

The purpose of this initiative is to give public sector workers a more efficient way of locating and sharing information between colleagues and between different ministries and agencies. The focus of this initiative appears to be on enabling the efficient creation of work products, such as setting up a web-based video conferencing service, using instant messaging when other colleagues are online, sharing and collaborating on documents in a common, secure online workspace and the like.

Clearly there are opportunities here to share information which would include personal information of citizens, and again, it is not clear at this stage whether this initiative will facilitate sharing of a citizen’s personal information that would otherwise not occur.

Integrated Case Management

The Integrated Case Management project is part of a larger Social Service Sector Integrated Information Management Project being led by the OCIO at the Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services. The first component of the project to be developed is the Integrated Case Management (“ICM”) Project, which will be the foundation for further information sharing across the social services sector.

The Integrated Case Management project is focused initially in the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance and the Ministry of Children and Family Development and is intended to eventually grow to link information and services delivered by the Ministries of Health, Education, and the Attorney General and those delivered by other provinces, governments and private sector contractors to government.

The government has indicated that it has an approximate combined total of 5500 potential users of a Case Management System within the Ministry of Children and Families and the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance.   In addition, the government foresees extending some form of access to portions of the system to approximately 13,000 contracted service delivery providers in the broader public sector (these are agencies, professionals and others who deliver services on behalf of the province of BC).  Finally, it appears that the intention is to eventually extend the Integrated Case Management system to other ministries and to outside organizations in the broader public service.

In March of 2008, the BC government contracted with Oracle Corporation for the development and implementation of a case management system for the ICM project.

Data Warehousing and Hosting

The province has undertaken additional projects to rationalize their technology use. Some of these projects will necessarily involve sharing information or making systems interoperable.

One project involves identifying and assessing data warehousing and business intelligence technology that is currently in use throughout the various ministries in the BC government. This is called the Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence Strategy. A part of this assessment will involve identifying potential opportunities for sharing information or leveraging technology.

The IM/IT Strategic Infrastructure and Shared Services is a project that ensures that data centre and hosting services in the government is centralized and comprehensive.