B.C. Assessment will spend 2004 expanding its nascent online property database by offering municipalities access to older records and opening it up to the private sector.

The provincial Crown agency, which classifies

and assesses the market value of all property in B.C., launched Assessment LinkBC last June. The online tool allows any B.C. municipality to access a server containing several years’ worth of property data via a secure Web site. A local government might want to identify all the properties in a specific area for mapping purposes, for example. Until recently municipalities would either have to dig this information out through a legacy system called Data Advice or send a request to B.C. Assessment, which could take up to five days to fulfill.

Assessment LinkBC, which is based on Cognos EBI Series, allows users to not only access the information but compare it with the property data of other areas.

“”The sky’s the limit,”” said Peter Barber, B.C. Assessment’s marketing manager. “”They can just slice and dice however they want.””

The organization had initially planned Assessment LinkBC as a tool for internal use only, Barber said, but later realized it would make sense to offer it to the province’s 200 local governments as well. Right now the database goes back four years but Barber said future enhancements could see B.C. Assessment offer data stretching back 10 years.

“”We’ll also look at more specific information — around bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage,”” he said.

Historically, a lot of reporting from databases and corporate organizations required special expertise which would have to be provided by the IT department, said Terence Atkinson, director of public sector solutions at Ottawa-based Cognos. “”Now they can push this out to actual users, the customers, and have them access the data on their own.””

Ontario’s Municipal Property and Assessment Corp. (MPAC) offers its own online service, MyProperty, which allows users to access basic property information, but Barber said he hadn’t tried it. Ontario and B.C. are the only provinces to conduct market value assessments at the provincial level, he said, which is why there are few systems like Assessment LinkBC available elsewhere.

“”The rest of (the country) is still doing assessment by city,”” he said. “”It makes it difficult to build systems like this.””

Atkinson said the software provider has worked with a number of public-sector organizations that are pushing data out to users in a way similar to B.C. Assessment. The value, he said, comes when the information becomes more efficiently delivered to the users being served.

“”When somebody dies in Ontario, the family has to register that death in three different places,”” he said by way of example. “”What e-government is trying to do is to represent a single face — to businesses, to constituents or other departments — so they only have to go to one place.””

Regional districts can access Assessment LinkBC at no cost, but Barber said the next step is to offer provincial-level assessment data and expand the tool to private-sector property owners for a fee.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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