Modernizing services for citizens: within reach for small and large municipal organizations

July 5, 2016

Municipalities need to make strategic decisions to determine how they will improve the quality of their services for citizens using technology. Over the past few years, we’ve observed that new versions of websites increasingly contain interactive functions, such as dynamic mapping. This post will highlight how Ville de Repentigny, which recently received an OCTAS award for its “Mes services municipaux” (My Municipal Services) app, successfully used templates available through ArcGIS Online to improve the way it shares information with citizens.

As citizens with varying degrees of involvement in our communities, we all have opinions about how our municipality should be managed. There is a general consensus that the role of municipal organizations is to promote a safe and enjoyable living environment. However, talk to your neighbours and you’ll see that the priorities of a municipality, especially investments, can differ significantly. Some believe that greening public spaces is a priority to improve air quality and provide a pleasant environment where children can freely play with other neighbour kids. Others recommend adding new sidewalks or repairing roads to improve the safety of residents and promote an active lifestyle. While others prefer facilitating access to various municipal services to simplify the lives of residents by reducing visits to city hall. These elements share one common thing: they’re the responsibility of your municipality, which must prioritize and make decisions to mobilize resources and carry out a strategic plan.

In all of the points mentioned above, GIS can play a role. For this post, I suggest that we concentrate on sharing information with citizens via the web.

You may be asking yourself, what’s the situation in Québec? For the past few years, we’ve observed that municipal authorities have been modernizing their websites. Of course, the newly updated versions are more aesthetically pleasing, but that’s not all. The current trend is to involve various contributors to produce higher quality content, such as offering certain municipal services in virtual mode. Often, GIS serves as an integrator by regrouping a significant amount of information and providing navigation through digital mapping.

Here’s a concrete example: last June, Ville de Repentigny was awarded an OCTAS award for its “Mes services municipaux” app from Réseau ACTION TI. In one click, citizens can access a host of information about municipal services available to them, such as waste collection dates and library business hours. This interactive, online tool is used by both citizens and city employees.

Last June, Ville de Repentigny accepted the OCTAS award for its “Mes services municipaux” app from the Réseau ACTION TI. Photo courtesy of Réseau ACTION TI.

The information centralization process and the easier access that the map provides may not be new concepts for GIS specialists, but they’re the vast majority of professionals we interact with. Today, much less effort is required to deploy applications than in the past, and the strong trend is for configuration rather than development. A committee is no longer required to determine your needs and proceed with producing the application. Numerous templates, created and maintained by Esri, are now included with your subscription to ArcGIS Online. The data can easily be hosted in the cloud to feed a citizen application such as Repentigny’s app.

Citizens of Ville de Repentigny can quickly look up information related to municipal services using an app configured by Repentigny’s geomatics team.

All this means that smaller organizations can now easily deploy web applications at a speed that larger organizations can’t fathom. A closer knit, more intimate working environment for contributors helps to simplify the decision-making process. As for the GIS specialists, their mastery of the communication and sharing tool is an essential factor for success. I recommend that you become familiar with the templates that are available to you. Know how to configure them so you can evaluate the time required to carry out your project. As is often the case, practice makes perfect, so learning how to configure the templates requires a time investment. If you lack sufficient time, we offer support services that are available as a bank of hours, which can make configuring an app quicker while training you to create subsequent maps on your own. To see some of the possibilities available to you, visit the Québec Maps Portal and interact with the mapping applications that have been uploaded by other users.

Who knows, maybe your organization will be the next to stand out for using GIS-based apps!

This post was originally written in French by Éric Lacoursière and can be viewed here.

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