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L-R: Justin Longo, JSGS Associate Professor, and Murray Fulton, JSGS Director and Professor

JSGS researchers examining the latest impacts of digital technologies on public and agricultural sectors

The nature of work is fundamentally changing due to digital technologies. JSGS researchers have received nearly $60,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to synthesize the knowledge related to skills and work in the public service and the challenges and opportunities of “big data” in agriculture.

The nature of work is fundamentally changing due to digital technologies. JSGS researchers have received nearly $60,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to synthesize the knowledge related to skills and work in the public service and the challenges and opportunities of “big data” in agriculture. 

Skills and Work in the Digital Public Service: A Knowledge Synthesis Project

Thanks to $30,000 in funding, researchers Dr. Justin Longo (PhD), associate professor at the JSGS University of Regina (U of R) campus, and Dr. Evert Lindquist (PhD), professor and former director of the University of Victoria’s School of Administration, are looking at the implications of the digital era on the public service. Elizabeth Olaniyi, PhD candidate at the JSGS U of R campus, will also serve as a research assistant on this project.

“Public service leaders are grappling with the challenges of building a digital-ready public service, understanding that the traditional response of 'e-government' is no longer sufficient,” said Longo. “Modern governments need the capacity to take advantage of emerging opportunities for managing the public service, developing and delivering citizen services, and responding to evolving challenges of public governance stemming from the rapid adoption of digital technologies across society.”

As part of their research, the duo is drawing on Canadian and international evidence to identify specific skill and capacity requirements needed in a digitally ready public sector, and where post-secondary institutions can help in educating tomorrow’s public sector.

Longo describes that the digital era brings “emerging opportunities for the development of public policy and delivery of public services while revealing evolving challenges of public governance as a consequence of the rapid adoption of digital technologies in broader society.”

Longo and Lindquist will assess the current state of knowledge and skills surrounding digital tools, and how the education system, public sector employers, private firms, civil society organizations, students, and public policy servants can work together to improve digital workplaces, digital delivery of citizen services, and governing in the digital era.

Insights from this project “will support a public service ready to face the challenges and embrace the opportunities of the digital future,” says Longo. 

Digital Technologies and the Big Data Revolution in the Canadian Agriculture Sector: Opportunities, Challenges, and Alternatives

At the school’s University of Saskatchewan campus, Dr. Murray Fulton (PhD), professor and director, Dr. Marc-André Pigeon (PhD), assistant professor, and Dr. Yang Yang (PhD), lecturer, were awarded $29,862 for their project on big data in the agricultural sector. William Oemichen, PhD candidate at the JSGS USask campus, will also serve as a research assistant on this project.

Over the past decade, advances in farm technology have seen the agricultural sector shift from largely analog to digital with manufacturers designing equipment, such as tractors, combines, and field drones, with smart device capabilities. Digital data allows farmers and ranchers to gain real-time information on weather conditions, soil quality and elevation, crop growth, insect impact, livestock health, and equipment performance. This data can be used to increase the efficiency of seed, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, and feed and irrigation. However, the data gathered from smart devices is largely owned, stored, and maintained by equipment manufacturers, product providers, and service providers.

“While farmers can use this data to make planning decisions, manufacturers and providers can monetize the data, often through aggregation, by offering more valuable and targeted products and services to agricultural producers. Although there is some benefit to farmers, the primary financial benefit remains with manufacturers and providers,” said Fulton. “Also, the fact that many of these manufacturers and providers are increasingly owned by foreign companies or countries may be of worry to federal policymakers, as these companies now have access to Canadian agriculture planting and production data.”

Given concerns of data privacy and security, the JSGS research team is exploring alternative models that could democratize data ownership, while providing security, self-sufficiency, and privacy. Much like the “open banking” policies in Europe, the research team is exploring whether a data co-operative model—where farmers and other stakeholders create and own data—would open the door for greater choice and better pricing for agricultural producers and reduce systemic barriers.

The team will consult agricultural leaders from across Western Canada to discuss the opportunities and challenges they face.

The team’s final report will outline policy recommendations and areas for future research.

In addition to the two projects led by JSGS faculty, another KSG funded project led by the U of R School of Nursing will feature one of JSGS’ PhD candidates, Irene Azogudi. Under the supervision of Ebin Jacobus Arries, U of R Associate Professor, Azogu will serve as a research assistant for the project titled An Integrative Review on Ethical Challenges Related to Promising Emerging Digital Technologies: Best-practice Ethics Supports and Strategies to Prepare Nurses for Transition to a Digital Workplace Economy.

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