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City on path to creating one-stop, citizen self-service portal

'It’s time Orillia got with the times,' said Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who supported $70,000 expenditure as part of three-year phased approach
screen grab of orillia website

In the coming years, Orillia’s City Centre is going to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - sort of.

City councillors agreed this week during budget deliberations to spend $70,000 to develop a citizen self-service portal.

Essentially, the idea is to create a “one-stop online customer service experience for recipients of city services.”

Citizens, using a single login on the city website, would be able to access personalized services ranging from information about their property tax bills, to registering for parks and recreation programs, to checking their water usage.

But it’s not going to happen at the speed of a mouse click. This is a three-year, phased project.

It will take time to lay the necessary technological foundation for the project, staff noted.

“In order to realize this vision, standards must be defined to integrate new and existing IT applications cost effectively and to make them available through the citizen portal,” noted the report tabled during this week’s capital budget deliberations. 

The report notes automated payment methods, electronic signature and on-line security requirements must be defined.

The first ‘exploratory’ phase includes the development of a business case based on “stakeholder consultations, privacy and information security assessment, legal risk and audit review, operating procedures, policy, bylaw review and definitions of measures of success.

The second phase would involve the design of the digital infrastructure and architecture of the portal. 

“The result of this (second) phase will be to define standard technologies for the portal and issue an RFP to scan the market for providers,” noted the report.

The third phase would be to implement the portal.

“It’s time Orillia got with the times,” said Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who supported the project, noting this would be “one of the first steps” needed to ensure Orillia’s citizens are more engaged.

Coun. David Campbell agreed.

“People’s expectations are changing,” he said, noting more and more citizens are calling for such a service to be provided at the municipal level.

However, Coun. Jay Fallis did not support the expenditure.

He cited the project’s “significant costs” and noted the services provided by the future portal are already being provided.

“This would be a nice thing to have but it’s not a necessity,” Fallis said.

In the end, a majority of councillors approved the project.

All decisions made at budget committee are subject to ratification at a special meeting of council Monday night.

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Dave Dawson

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