NIAGARA ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – A Web site redesign complete with Web 2.0 capabilities is just one of the projects the City of Toronto’s first-ever CIO has added to his plate in just over a year on the job.
David Wallace was among the delegates at this year’s Lac Carling Congress, where the central theme was around using online applications and software to engage citizens and improve service delivery. In an interview with InterGovWorld.com, Wallace said the Web site redesign will follow the development of a new enterprise architecture that will create more standardization across the technology used within Canada’s largest municipality.
“Toronto has a good technology architecture and a good data architecture, but not as much of a business architecture,” Wallace said. The project he is working on will bring better project portfolio management, he said, along with more transparent governance around how IT decisions get made.
Wallace joined the City of Toronto after a stint as the chief technology officer for the province of Ontario, and he said he has noticed some major differences in the way his role has an impact on users.
“It’s a difference in the way things work. In the province, you work through a process of approvals, and even then when things get approved, the projects often end up getting handed off to the programs departments,” Wallace said. “In this role you end up answering questions directly from the floor of the city council.”
Then there are the Torontonians who rely on City Hall for a range of information and services. “When you do a change – a system upgrade or a change to the Web site – you’re getting a response from the public themselves,” he said.
This is one of the reasons why some public sector organizations may be cautious in adopting Web 2.0 for their citizen-facing processes, said James Canning, program lead for public sector at Toronto-based Accenture.
“The key is to always understand your outcomes. If you’re making an investment, you have to figure out why you’re doing it,” he said. “On the social networking side of things, that may not be as scientific. Sometimes you just have to do it.”
Web 2.0 is not confined to the “sexy” social networking applications, Canning added. On the back end are rich Internet applications and mashups that combine software services in new ways.
Wallace said Toronto’s new Web site will be focused on community involvement, but the aim will be something simple and straightforward to manage. Right now, he is more focused on ways to get more value out of some of the work that is already going on in elsewhere parts of the city.
There are already plans, for example, to use the same middleware operated by the water division for the management of treatment plants for the city’s 311 project, which will provide quick access to municipal information by telephone. Social Services meanwhile, is using a data mart application for its reports that could be harnessed other departments.
“The important thing about developing an enterprise architecture is that you can’t only use it as a compliance tool,” Wallace said. “People will not be innovative if that’s the case.”
Lac Carling 2008 wrapped up Tuesday.