By Herald on November 13, 2020.
A Digital Master Plan for the City of Lethbridge that employs a HALO Initiative in an Intelligent Community design. It sounds like bad science fiction or perhaps an overarching digital menace like SkyNet in the Terminator series, but it is neither, says City of Lethbridge general manager of Information Technology Trevor Butler. What it is, in fact, he says, is a blueprint for how to provide Lethbridge residents with personalized, data-driven, digital services tailored to meet their specific needs.
“As part of the work under our Intelligent Community initiative there is a key piece about digital strategy on how we deliver our services to our citizens– those that have the ability to be delivered online,” Butler confirms. “So part of this is a shift to focus on what are really those needs our citizens have, the things they may be struggling with, as they try to engage with the City online. Whether that is purchasing tickets to a concert, paying taxes or booking a swimming lesson, how can they do that online at their leisure through the devices they are comfortable using? Which we have learned is largely mobile devices.”
And this menacing sounding HALO Initiative? Butler, who presented on the topic during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting, says it is simply a personalized digital dashboard for citizens to login on which collects their information and helps them to reach the services they need.
“That was the word the consultant used to talk about the large, overarching kind of milestone in the future we are shooting towards,” he explains. “The HALO initiative is that citizen dashboard which is personalized to each citizen, the services they are most interested in, the services they can consume so they can interact with those services directly through that customized portal.”
Butler says this type of personalized digital portal for residents will be accessible directly through their mobile devices, and has been in the making for a few years now. He acknowledges his team is taking a slow and steady approach to bringing it online because they have to make sure appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure resident data is protected and is parceled out in a way which limits access both externally and internally to those who need to view it to provide what the resident needs.
He expects all the major groundwork on the project to finally be complete by next April.
“We want to be able to deliver this portal quickly, but it will have limited functionality (at first) and then grow that functionality over time,” says Butler. “We know governance around the data is very important … That data and that privacy is a very important piece that we will approach in a very deliberate manner.
“This initiative isn’t really about sharing data,” he emphasizes. “It’s about identifying who I am as a citizen and what services I need to be able to use. But we have to have proper controls in place because some of those services will be run here in city hall in our data centre. Others may run in a cloud environment somewhere. We have to make sure the same protections are there so we can meet the FOIPP requirements of the province.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down direct access to city hall earlier this year and the ongoing need for social distancing, Butler says it drives home the importance of creating this type of sophisticated citizen dashboard and information portal.
“The things that have come forward that is anecdotal after the pandemic is some of the services you would typically come to city hall for, which was a consultative service that maybe wasn’t available online before– I think the pandemic has taught us there has been a big shift to try to acquire whatever that service might in another means besides in person,” he says.
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