SAN DIEGO — Telus is in the early stages of developing a virtual city concept to connect nine municipalities within the Niagara region using Sun‘s J2EE portal, identity and directory

server.

“”There’s value in how leaders of a community portray themselves,”” said John Hargrave, vice-president of Web solutions for the telecommunications company.

Telus was one of 1,500 partners who attended Sun Microsystem’s annual iForce Partner Summit, which wraps up Thursday. The conference is an opportunity for Sun to update its partners on where it’s been and where it’s headed in the upcoming fiscal year. (Sun’s fiscal year commences in July and ends in June.)

Sun made portal technology one of the key issues at the conference. In his opening keynote, Sun’s newly appointed chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz asked partners, “”Why build many portals when you can build one global shared portal?”” He said people are holding back for three reasons: integration complexity, pricing complexity and licensing complexity.

Hargrave said the Niagara project is an opportunity to bring together many applications into one using J2EE.

The end result will link community to resident, community to employer and community to supply chain management. Businesses and employers, however, will require a single sign on for identity management purposes, said Hargrave.

Residents, for example, will be able to take advantage of services such as “”book it”” to book swim lessons, “”pay it”” to pay for parking tickets and “”library on-line”” to call up a print queue.

In the long term Telus is looking to establish an environment that allows access to multiple services. For example integrating portals with a call centre to deploy a 311 service where users can go to get community information.

Hargrave said the Business Education Council (BEC), which represents the nine municipalities in the Niagara region, approached Telus for a Sun ONE Java Enterprise System portal solution.

A similar project to connect different applications, called citysoup.ca was implemented in Coquitlam, B.C. But a major challenge in implementing these solutions, especially in the public sector, is cost.

“”The biggest challenge is finding the funding. They don’t want it without the return-on-investment,”” said Hargrave, adding Telus is telling its customers that they can see ROI within the first three to five years. “”They need to look at the overall vision.””

As for future applications, Hargrave said Telus is looking to integrate geomatics in the form of a GIS-based system and the ability for residents to vote on-line.

Telus hopes to deliver the strategy to its sales force this summer.

“”There are many opportunities for this technology in other communities in Canada,”” said Hargrave.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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