Burlington sets municipal e-services pace

When the City of Burlington, Ont. planned its new Web strategy, it found that offering e-services to its citizens was going to be a difficult and costly task. Through a request for proposal, the City settled on Teranet Inc., a Toronto-based application service provider to host and develop e-commerce applications for the municipality.

The five-year agreement will bring Web-based services, including parking ticket payment, permit services, licence services, property information requests and mapping services to Burlington citizens beginning in September.

According to Rick Kawai, director of information technology services for the City of Burlington, the original Web site built in 1995 left much to be desired.

“For lack of a better term, we referred to it as ‘brochure-ware,'” Kawai said. “Starting around 1999 there was talk about expanding the services that were available on our Web site. What we ended up doing was bringing in a consultant to help us develop an electronic services strategic plan…and based on that we went out looking for a firm that would be able to provide outsourced services.”

Kawai explained that after completing a cost/benefit analysis, the City found that in the long run, owning and operating e-services in-house would prove to be a more expensive option.

“In terms of municipal budgeting, the best way to go was to outsource,” he said. “We were looking for someone who had a track record in the area of municipal e-services. We were looking for someone who had the scope of offering that would allow us to do the hardware services so that we could totally outsource this thing. Teranet had that.”

According to Antoni Wisniowski, eGovernment program manager for Teranet, the company has been in the businesses of e-government services for some time, and when Burlington’s RFP popped up, the company seized the opportunity.

“One of the things that set Burlington apart for other municipalities is that very early on they decided to put together an electronic services delivery strategy,” Wisniowski said. “The way we built (our business) is we act in a middle tier between Web sites and the back office environment that the municipality houses. We initiate the transactions and do all the presentation of the forms and the actual e-service to the user through our Web site. All of the logic associated with the business transaction comes from the back office environment that the municipality houses.”

What this offers, he continued, is integration with the back end to bring consistency across all services.

For payment transactions, Teranet has assembled a group of companies to customize the services provided to the City of Burlington. The group includes CSDC Systems Inc., the Royal Bank of Canada, ISR Ltd. and Orion Technologies. Together this group will provide the technology infrastructure required to deliver these electronic services, including all hardware, security components, Internet connections and payment processing products. A high-speed connection to the city will integrate the city’s applications and staff into the overall service offering.

“All the transactions are standard 128-bit encrypted [secure socket layer],” Wisniowski said. “When a user is operating the system, if they do not have a 128-bit encrypted browser, they are not able to proceed with the transaction.”

For Burlington, the wheels are in motion and although still early in the deal, Kawai said he is confident that the agreement will allow Burlington to leapfrog ahead of other municipal governments.

“Without getting too much into the relationship, I think Teranet as a partner is demonstrating a high level of enthusiasm that matches our own,” he said. “Therefore, the drive to have deliverable services that are both effective and efficient is a value that we both share.”

And, for Teranet’s Wisniowski, the deal represents its first comprehensive e-services delivery in the municipal market space.

“Without question [the contract] confirms for us that the approach we have is something that the municipal sector is looking for,” he said.

Implementation of the City of Burlington’s e-services is set to begin in September and is expected to wrap up in March when the second phase of services will be discerned and deployed. For more information, visit Teranet online at


. The City of Burlington can be found at