Technology

Service Nova Scotia looks to modernize services

Registry of Joint Stock Companies first to get system upgrade

Left to right: Natasha Clarke, Joanne Munro, Gillian Latham, Paul Benoit speak to MLAs at Province House.   Ross Andersen

Service Nova Scotia is looking to modernize its services through technology upgrades, but the process could take years.

Joanne Munro, CEO of Service Nova Scotia, discussed how to make services more accessible online for Nova Scotians, during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Wednesday.

“We’re modernizing our registries to allow us to fulfil our commitment to becoming a (digital) leader in service and program modernization,” Munro told the committee.

Service Nova Scotia operates three registries across the province. This includes the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, land and vital statistics and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The department wants to keep its software up to date. Munro said there are a number of ideas to consider, such as cloud computing. She admitted she doesn’t know how much a modernization project would cost, but previous projects have cost between $35 to $40 million.

“The modernization process is expected to take five to six years to complete with benefits being fully realized within 10 years,” said Munro.

The project will include updating the 20-year-old computer system software currently in use at the Joint Stocks, which is difficult to maintain, Munro said.

Joint Stocks will also be the first registry to receive a new IT system. It will offer 24/7 online payment transactions, smart forms and online assistance. Munro said a vendor has already been selected.

However, not everything needs fixing, according to the department. A 2017-18 business report states that registry wait times meet the industry standard, with 80 per cent of customers being served in 20 minutes or less.

Access Nova Scotia centres

Currently, anyone who wants to replace a driver’s licence or photo ID has to go to an Access Nova Scotia location. Service Nova Scotia operates 13 centres, seven Registry of Motor Vehicle Offices and five land registry offices across the province, with more than 320 staff.

The only centre in the Halifax Regional Municipality is at Bayers Lake, which is off the peninsula. Munro said there is no plan to build another access centre. However, the conversation “will be revisited” in 2020, Natasha Clarke, executive director of digital services, told the committee.

Paul Benoit, director of operations support, said he suspects parking would be the biggest obstacle if there was a centre on the peninsula.

Munro added that she’d like to introduce a more convenient way for people to be able to renew or replace their licences by doing so online.

“You need to have the technology to make sure your identity is protected and fraudulent activity doesn’t happen,” said Munro.

Last year, Service Nova Scotia enhanced driver’s licences and photo ID cards to make them harder to counterfeit.

Currently, Ontario and Quebec are the only provinces that have online licence renewal systems.