Open Accessible Digital Workspace

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The Open, Accessible Digital Workspace

The Open, Accessible Digital Workspace (OADW) is an ecosystem of digital services designed to enable civil servants and beyond to get their work done. The OADW will meet the user and business needs to provide the landscape required for efficient digital collaboration and a capable workforce. This workspace will fill a critical gap in the existing set of tools available to public servants as a public commons for the digital age. The OADW will provide a suite of applications and digital services that are universal and accessible, aimed at increasing collaboration and productivity between government, partners, academics and more.

The Open and Accessible Digital Workplace will be a suite of modular tools, so users can use what application is most relevant and useful to their work. Starting with a common account and user profile, a new collaboration space and career service, all built using a common framework using our very own Aurora design system, we will continue to create and iterate on new ways for everyone to collaborate to co-create solutions and improve their work!

While their functionalities may sound similar, the OADW is not a stand-in for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other commercial applications. The OADW is not a single tool or a replacement for the commercial internet. With a specific focus on collaboration across public servants and their partners, the OADW is:

  • free to use, without advertising;
  • secure, with data hosted on Canadian servers;
  • accessible, with user experience and accessibility testing;
  • built using open source software with partners across the globe;
  • contributing to the open source community; and
  • designed to support projects for the public good.

These digital tools help users connect in meaningful ways and facilitate the sharing of information to better work together and to achieve better results for Canadians, while meeting the accessible, bilingual, and security needs of the public service.

By enabling real-time collaboration from any device at any time, the OADW will open up new ways of working for teams, partners, and clients working within and beyond the Government of Canada (GC).

Our Plan

Using an agile methodology to design and develop applications in a timely manner allowed us to continue to iterate and improve the GCTools. We work in the open, so that others can see the applications we are creating during their development phase, provide feedback and even help along the way. We have created a space where everyone can work collaboratively on initiatives and projects, regardless of who and where they are, and we will continue to do so as we develop the Open and Accessible Digital Workspace. We listen to the users, value their feedback, and make required modifications when possible. We are building for all user types and have already started to address some of the key requirements as we are building this digital workspace, including one single account and one common user profile.

While the development team implements a new dev-ops and tech stack that will enable many groups to contribute services to a wide variety of services of the OADW in 2018 and beyond, GCcollab is the foundation of the OADW. Existing functionalities, which will be upgraded into a suite of services, allow members to create groups for their projects, join communities, and find their next career or learning opportunity.

When governments, partners and interested citizens join GCcollab, they have a direct connection to public servants, in real time. This means more collaboration, networking and the open sharing of information and data. Individual public servants can learn new skills and techniques by creating communities to improve their craft and provide more to the GC.

What's New and What's Coming

Since May 2018, new functionalities have been added to GCcollab as part of the OADW, including:

  • Account, a single-sign on account with a user authentication process that allows users to sign in to GCcollab and access all current and future services;
  • Wiki, a public wiki that anyone can view and search, and that allows members to build and edit pages for all to see.

Other new functionalities to be developed in the 2018-2019 fiscal year include:

  • Directory Profile, a single user profile available across all services and approved applications;
  • Collaboration service, a space for open and collaborative spaces, groups, and discussions; and
  • Career Marketplace, a way to connect people and opportunities including jobs and mentorship.

We also created the Aurora Design System. Aurora is the building blocks for the new Open Accessible Digital Workspace. The design system is a living catalog of product components (including code, design, font, colours, content voice, etc.), best practices code and a user interface kit to be applied to future services and tools developed for the OADW.

The DCD has and will continue to leverage open source software, work openly and transparently, and ultimately, contribute to and benefit from the work of the global open source community. All development work can be reviewed on GitHub, where others can use such work for their own purposes, or to contribute services to the OADW.

Front end development of the OADW will largely be built with React.js, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, as well as other templating languages. Front end graphics will be guided by the Aurora Design System, which will enable a consistent user experience across all services; regardless of the templating language used per service.

Back end development involves the deployment and management of containerized microservices through Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open source system for automating the deployment and scaling of services; allowing a service to be managed, without affecting other services, while being linked in an ecosystem. Each service can be turned on (available to members) or turned off (for updates and maintenance) seamlessly.


The Open, Accessible Digital Workspace operates using a combined constellation partnerships approach, traditional waterfall approach and progressive agile project management.

There are two governance bodies to provide guidance, make higher order decisions on the OADW, and ensure individual service teams (dedicated to building, enhancing, and maintaining services like Account, Profile, Collab, etc.) are aligned with the overall OADW vision. The two governance bodies are the Advisory Committee and the Secretariat.

  • The Advisory Committee is a cross-sectoral group of leaders in digital government and civic technology who will provide guidance, feedback, and direction on the future of the OADW.
  • The Secretariat is comprised of product owners of all services, the scrum master, and representatives from the Partnership and Business Development team to provide management oversight of the OADW. The group makes strategic tactical and day-to-day decisions about each service individually and integration across all services as a whole.

The Current GCTools Suite

Gccollabicon.png GCcollab (2017)
A collaboration and networking platform available to all orders of government, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, as well as their partners and clients by invitation. The first GCTool with a mobile app on Apple and Android devices.

Careermarketplace.jpg The Career Marketplace (2017)
This feature within GCcollab and GCconnex matches members with at-level mobility and professional development opportunities.

Pilot-Icon.png Collab Message (2018)
A messaging service that enables users to connect with each other via desktop or mobile app, with the ability to direct message, and create private or public group-chat channels.

Gcwiki.png Collab Wiki (2018)
A collaborative content editing and viewing platform for GCcollab users, allowing them to post and share information open to the public for viewing and search.

Gcconnexicon.png GCconnex (2009)
A collaboration and networking platform accessible to all federal public servants. Launched in 2016, GCconnex includes a version of the Career Marketplace only available to GC employees.

Gcpediaicon.png GCpedia (2008)
A wiki-based collaborative workspace and knowledge-sharing platform, similar to Wikipedia, accessible to all federal public servants.

GCintraneticon.png GCintranet (2016)
The GC’s authoritative and central communications channel for high-level information on cross-government initiatives accessible to all federal public servants.

Gcdirectoryicon.png GCdirectory (2016)
The GC’s employee directory accessible to all federal public servants.

Our History

The Digital Collaboration Division (DCD) manages the Open and Accessible Digital Workspace (OADW). Following February 2018 validation of the vision by GCEARB, the evolution of the GCTools into the OADW began in May 2018 with approval and funding from the CIOC. The DCD is the OADW’s project steward: the OADW is its core business.

With upgraded development operations (dev-ops), tech stack, open governance, and partnership models, the OADW represents a full transformation of the GCTools.

The GCTools are an innovation built up by hundreds of Government of Canada civil servants working together, making practical tools for open and accessible, digital government. From 2008-2017, the GCTools team built collaboration platforms for Government of Canada (GC) employees only accessible inside the GC firewall. In 2008 and 2009, GCpedia and GCconnex were created as the first proof-of-concept pilots using open source software, MediaWiki and Elgg respectively. Public servants were drawn to the platforms, with 10,000 users on GCpedia and 2,000 users on GCconnex in the first year. These platforms gave them the ability to connect across the Government of Canada in new ways:

  • Create and join searchable, online communities;
  • Communicate with their colleagues in chats, broadcasts and open discussions;
  • Build documents and projects together; and
  • Find the profiles and interests of fellow public servants across Canada from the convenience of their desk.

In 2016, membership increased significantly by virtue of strong support from Blueprint 2020, a user interface re-design, and two new GCTools: GCdirectory and GCintranet. The first collaboration platform open to both GC employees and their colleagues beyond the enterprise, GCcollab was piloted in September 2016 using existing open source software called Elgg. GCcollab was launched in May 2017 at the Blueprint (BP) 2020 Innovation Fair. It is the GC’s only platform open to all orders of government, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and individual citizens. It is free for users to access, free of advertising, and practices data ethics. It is designed to enable and enhance communication and collaboration between civil society, the public, and other partners and clients across Canada and beyond. Future services will follow the same principles that shape GCcollab by being inclusive, accessible, and free for all.

How we Work

The DCD is a multidisciplinary, digital first team that is organized to work openly, as a network, with whoever needs to be involved to get the best outcomes. As a team focused on digital collaboration, team members are encouraged to test digital tools and work wherever they will get their best work done, whether that be 219 Laurier, 140 O’Connor, a partner’s office, from home, or a coffee shop of choice.

Every day, the team lives the policies of open and accessible digital government. Together, team members developed the following Vision Mission and Values to guide the DCD’s work.


To inspire governments, partners and citizens to actively collaborate in solving challenges and take advantage of opportunities which improve the world.


To build an open and accessible digital workspace through a transparent approach and ethical practices, and enable networks to thrive and collaborate within this workspace.


  1. Initiate action, lead by example, and be proud of your work.
  2. Create fun, simple, and inclusive experiences.
  3. Work in the open.
  4. Empower communities. Enable and co-create solutions.
  5. Serve our users and their needs, not our own.
  6. Explore new ideas and technology. Actively experiment.
  7. Always be learning. Do not assume.

Our Network

While the DCD leads the development of the OADW, partners across Canada and the globe are contributing to the project through knowledge-sharing, technical development, and human and financial resources.

Type Department
Government of Canada The Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Government of Canada Employment and Social Development Canada
Government of Canada Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (TBS)
Social The Centre for Social Innovation
Government of Canada Department of National Defence
Municipality The Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Provincial The Government of British Columbia
Provincial The Government of Alberta
International United States of America, US Digital Services
International Government of the Netherlands, Pleuio
Government of Canada The National Research Council
Social Built in Canada Innovation Program (Proximify)

Contact Us

If you have any questions, issues or would like to provide feedback, please contact the GCTools Help Desk.