The government’s digital transformation lead is quitting

What might be the least desirable job in all of Canadian tech — helping the government update thousands of aging software platforms and apps — is about to become vacant.

What happened: Catherine Luelo, the government’s chief information officer, will be leaving her post in December after roughly two years on the job. A letter to staff did not give a reason for her departure.

  • Luelo was previously CIO at Air Canada, where she was credited with leading a tech strategy that included implementing new systems, technology and loyalty programs, as well as leading AI innovation.
  • But many private sector executives, regardless of their resume, have a tough time adjusting to the rules and pace of work inside government bureaucracies.

Zoom out: When she was appointed in 2021, Luelo was tasked with modernizing the government’s systems and leading a shift to digital.

  • But that is a really, really big job. Between different ministries and departments, the federal government uses over 7,500 different applications, and an auditor general report this year said that only 38% were considered “healthy.”
  • Alex Benay had a similar mandate when he was made CIO in 2017, but (similarly to Luelo) would leave after two years, taking a gig at Mindbridge Analytics.
  • Outdated digital infrastructure means more than being frustrated by government websites. It has also led to major issues like the Phoenix pay system failure, the long lines at Canadian airports last year, and, more recently, backlogs processing passport and immigration applications.

Why it’s important: Luelo’s departure likely means another delay on updates that are necessary to deliver government services in the digital age.