For Coquitlam-Port Moody, the surprise of a portal is how well it brings people face-to-face.
Adults who might shy from youth on the street come to value their generosity in volunteering to teach computer skills. The kids are delighted with the recognition and acceptance. “It has brought inter-generational connections,” says Chrissy Bennett, co-ordinator of volunteers and public access. “It has promoted youth in our community, and it’s wonderful to see seniors jump in and swap e-mails with their grandson. It’s been a bit of a wow for them.”
At computer classes and public access stations, “small businesses and non-profit organizations overlap, finding out what other groups are doing and sharing information.”
The portal has also built community cohesiveness on a larger scale. “The real value is in community engagement, bringing people together to design it and create it, to participate,” says ICT manager Rick Adams. “It’s a community development project. Technology is really in the background. The real work is in people in the community getting it together.”
Adams defines a portal as a set of tools that aggregates content from multiple websites. “It hosts websites for two cities, two libraries, about 50 elementary schools, and community groups. It brings all of the various areas of interest together in one spot for our citizens or visitors to the community,” including arts offerings, tourist attractions and services, and private sector information.
“We have to be neutral in supporting all economic development,” Adams says. “The community portal is a great concept because it provides a much more holistic view.
“It’s going to cost something to start and maintain, but it provides a tremendous amount of value. The portal is not a vehicle in itself for business process improvement. It may generate savings on the back end, but we don’t need a portal to do that. The power of a portal is bringing everything together.”