Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 2 of 2

Using GIS, the West Parry Sound Geography Network has built a Smart Story app that tells the story of how their communities are working together to build technological capacity for the area. The app incorporates a large amount of information including a web map, text, photos, and videos. It is a creative and cost-effective approach to engaging citizens in the West Parry Sound smart community initiative. To engage citizens in the initiative and drive innovation, the municipal- ity hosted Apps4Halifax, an open data contest that encouraged the pub- lic to develop web apps that would improve the lives of Halifax residents using the newly published data. The public response was phenomenal, with 276 app ideas submitted and more than 1,500 votes logged in the public voting. In the end, 38 apps were developed, which tackled a broad range of concerns – from tran- sit, waste collection, and crime map- ping to cultural tourism and parks preservation. To further improve upon the pilot project, Halifax launched a new open data catalogue in October 2014 that serves up datasets through a cloud GIS platform, enabling it to scale when us- age spikes without putting a strain on the municipality's internal servers. The open data catalogue will en- able the municipality to increase efficiency by reducing the time re- quired by staff to handle public data requests. Streamlining the process and transitioning to a no-additional- cost, online, self-serve catalogue has also helped them save money and get public data into the hands of citizens faster. Perhaps more importantly, Halifax has significantly increased citizen satisfaction based on positive user feedback on the project. Levelling the Playing Field for Rural Communities Becoming a smart community is a pursuit not only for large cities. Ru- ral municipalities also need to work toward this goal so as not to risk los- ing residents to bigger cities. While they may not have the same informa- tion technology infrastructure as their urban counterparts, this does not mean that rural communities cannot achieve the same efficiencies. The West Parry Sound Geography Network (WPSGN) – a partnership of seven small rural municipalities in West Parry Sound, Ontario – is a great example of this. The network was formed in 2005 as a shared ser- vice focused on using technology to address the municipal partners' growing needs for data collection and information management. One of their members, the Town- ship of the Archipelago, had adopted GIS in the late 1990s and has since embraced the technology as an es- sential business system supporting municipal operations and data shar- ing. To extend the benefits of GIS to neighbouring municipalities and maximize the return from pooled knowledge and resources, the town- ship initiated the formation of the WPSGN and continues to administer the network to this day. All seven members have access to the GIS platform, which sup- ports various operations including 911 emergency response, planning and zoning, natural resources man- agement, economic development, community engagement, public recreation, and tourism. With one full-time staff member, the network has developed and maintains an open data portal, which allows the public to freely access information from municipal members and other par- ticipating organizations. As well, the network has an interactive mapping application that serves up valuable information to over a hundred mu- nicipal staff and 15,000 residents in West Parry Sound. "GIS provides a robust centralized data warehouse that supports a vari- ety of critical requirements," noted Chris Mahon, GIS data management specialist for WPSGN. "It allows our members to quickly and effectively contribute, consume, and analyze community data on their desktop or mobile device. Using configurable templates, we're able to reduce the time it takes to build web apps and update data from weeks to less than two hours." Working Smarter, Not Harder Every community, whether urban or rural, can become a smart com- munity. Opening up data to the pub- lic is a good first step to achieving this goal. Instead of working harder, municipalities can work smarter by using existing GIS technology to re- lease data. GIS is a solid foundation for build- ing smart communities. By providing free access to actionable information, municipalities can increase transpar- ency and efficiency. With open data, business partners, consultants, devel- opers, and citizens gain the ability to bring new products and services to market, thus driving innovation and economic growth. When citizens are not only informed, but also involved, in solving community problems, mu- nicipalities can confidently look to a smarter future. MW 26 Municipal World December 2015

Articles in this issue

view archives of Articles - 2015_MunicipalWorld_smartcommunities