In order to make accessing government services more convenient for Kenora, Ont. area residents, the Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corp. (LOWBIC), along with the City of Kenora and Imex Systems Inc., recently agreed to work together to deploy a new Web service.
iCity is an e-government portal that delivers electronic services and provides a platform for citizens to take advantage of different e-services including paying for utility bills, parking fines, building permits and purchasing different types of licenses, explained Shamir Furtado, director of business development at Imex, a service delivery products provider based in Mississauga, Ont.
The iCity product is catered toward small- to medium-sized municipalities, Furtado explained, and also offers residents the ability to collaborate and communicate with the city.
In terms of communication, the city would post its council meeting minutes and any messages from the mayor as well as provide access to e-mail and the ability to make service requests online, Furtado explained. The collaboration tools would include chats, forums, bulletin boards, market forums and classifieds, he added.
LOWBIC — a not-for-profit community futures organization funded under Industry Canada to provide economic development services to various areas in rural Canada — was looking to expand its Web site and offer those same tools that iCity promised, but it needed a partner.
“[LOWBIC] provides tourism services for the city under a contract with the city, so our interest in this project was really for economic development and tourism services,” explained Don Cameron, chief administration officer of Kenora-based LOWBIC.
“We discovered that there really is a strong municipal element to [the portal] and that we should really have a partner, or the city should really be a partner in this, so we sought their support for the project and just recently received it.”
Although LOWBIC received a few other applications from other companies who wanted the contract, Cameron said choosing Imex was an obvious decision because the iCity product allowed LOWBIC and the city to have more control over the planning and management of the portal.
Imex also went the “extra mile” according to Cameron, by forming a partnership with Overdrive Design Labs, a local Internet service provider (ISP) which “delighted” LOWBIC because “we wanted our people to benefit from the association that we were going to have with these gurus from the big city.”
Imex’s Furtado said that today people are starting to get used to the convenience of doing things online as opposed to standing in line, but added that there will always be a trade off between the two. “We are never going to eliminate one channel entirely.”
When deciding to implement the iCity portal solution, the Kenora community had a big debate over whether or not the solution was worth the effort, LOWBIC’s Cameron explained. After all, “it is just another way of paying your taxes or just another way of accessing your city…but the convenience is worth something at least.”
The project is set to begin this August, Cameron said, and the portal should be ready to use by August 2005.