City of Toronto CIO outlines Web 2.0 strategy

TORONTO — Tech Week kicked off Monday with a session by the city’s CIO that suggested Web 2.0 will be the linchpin for improving service delivery throughout Canada’s largest municipality.

David Wallace, who joined the City of Toronto last year as its first CIO, said next-generation online technologies are part of an over-arching plan that includes the rollout of a new financial planning and reporting system, mobile case management upgrades for food and safety inspectors and a major reorganization of technology staff.

“These are all steps along the journey, but it’s Web 2.0 that’s going to take us there,” he said.

Citing research on citizens’ perspective on Web 2.0, Wallace said users don’t necessarily want quick adoption by governments but more thoughtfully considered deployments.

“They don’t want us to pop up on their Facebook page and say, ‘You owe us money on your taxes!’” he said.

To determine how best to apply Web 2.0, Wallace said his department is working closely with a Young Professionals Group that has sprung up within the City of Toronto staff. Its membership includes not only technology experts but representatives from accounting and other divisions, he said.

The Young Professionals Group will also be a key part of a Web 2.0 summit Wallace said the City is planning to hold in November.

“They’re really challenging me to engage with them on this and make the most of this event,” he said.

Web 2.0 will most likely make itself felt through vehicles like the city’s online services portal, which allows citizens to do everything from licensing their pet to applying for a job. Wallace said the city is currently compiling a list of the top most-requested services (paying for parking tickets is No. 1) as it expands the capabilities of the system.

“It’s not where we want it to be, but it’s getting there,” said Wallace, referring to citizens who have said they refuse to line up to sign their children up for municipal programs if an online option isn’t available.

Electronic financial filing and disclosure, meanwhile, will bring a new level of transparency and accountability within the city’s public sector, Wallace said. “People want to know how councillors are spending their money, and they also want to help shape it,” he said, adding that having 45 councillors with no formal political party affiliations means there is an incredible diversity of opinion about actions plans and approaches to problems. “It makes it exciting but it can also be very challenging.”

While Wallace’s session was an example of a high-profile user at Toronto Tech Week, the five-day series of sessions is split into several tracks focusing on competing priorities for IT, talent management and entrepreneurship. Toronto Tech Week organizer Dave Forde said highlighting local businesses is among his top priorities.

“There are so many people who aren’t even aware of all the great startups we have here,” he told the conference’s opening session. “There are a lot of stories we want to see told.” Toronto Tech Week continues on Tuesday.

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