In Gatineau, service is just one phone call away

One telephone number…that’s all it will take to access municipal information and services in the city of Gatineau, Quebec.

Starting next summer Gatineau residents — regardless of the city department they want to contact — will be able to punch in a single telephone number to get questions answered and make service requests.

“Single number access” is one of the hottest and most talked about topics at local government technology conferences today. But Gatineau is one of the first Canadian cities to actually walk the talk. The city has taken a major step to simplify, streamline and centralize service delivery to its citizens. In doing so, it follows in the footsteps of large U.S. municipalities that offer such a service.

To make it all possible, the city will implement a non-emergency call centre powered by Bell Canada’s call management technology.

According to a Bell Canada release, this technology will enable Gatineau to effectively manage the more than 600,000 non-emergency calls it receives from residents each year. Currently these calls are made to around 100 telephone numbers representing various points of service.

With the centralized service, citizens will punch in a single telephone number for information and non-urgent service requests on everything from road works and sidewalk maintenance to streetlights and traffic problems, from locating lost pets to environment and recycling.

The call centre will also position Gatineau to implement a 3-1-1 number — a non-emergency services hotline — in keeping with conditions published by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Nov. 5.

The service, said the CRTC in a statement, will significantly reduce non-emergency calls to 9-1-1, and serve a broad public interest.

Municipalities wishing to implement a 3-1-1 service will have to provide a minimum of six months notice to relevant telephone companies. Costs for basic implementation would be borne by the companies. Costs to promote public awareness would be borne by each municipality.

“This service could permit citizens to dial 3-1-1 to report dangerous road conditions, traffic and street light outages, water main breaks, blocked and-or broken sewer mains, stray animals, abandoned vehicles and noise complaints,” the CRTC said. Citizens, it added “could make inquiries regarding garbage and recycling, water quality and safety, public transit schedules, development and building permits, property tax bills, parking tickets and recreation facility schedules.

The city of Toronto also plans to introduce a 3-1-1 hotline next year, but it will be a few years before the service reaches maturity, according to John Davies, executive director and CIO, City of Toronto.

The 3-1-1 service, said Davies, is one of several city projects — existing and in development — that use IT strategically to make local government and services more effective, accessible and efficient.

Other key initiatives include the replacement of around 17,000 desktops and 500 servers, expanding the scope and complexity of the city’s network, introducing live video streaming of Council meetings and re-engineering major business processes.

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3-1-1 may be a winning number for Torontonians , (Sept. 15, 2004)

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