City of Summerside puts portal on the map

The City of Summerside in P.E.I. has unveiled a Web-mapping application to enhance the region’s economic development initiatives by providing the public, developers and businesses with better access to property and

real estate data.

Using geographic-information consulting and support services from GeoNet Technologies in Central Bedeque, P.E.I., the city selected the Spatial Fusion software from Caris in Fredericton, N.B., to equip its portal with Web-mapping functionality. The tool brings together various repositories of information by combining property, demographic and business data. The information, accessible via a browser-based environment, is presented through interactive maps complete with site-search capability.

“”With the wealth of information in various areas of our Web site, we were looking for a way to consolidate it and make it much more user-friendly,”” said Mike Thususka, director of economic development for the City of Summerside. The four-month, $30,000 project, he added, culminated with the site being launched last June.

According to Thususka, the city looked at what other municipalities were doing and studied what other suppliers were offering. It ultimately selected Caris because of the software provider’s “”local engagement”” and customizable solutions.

Spatial Fusion, said Mark MacKenzie, solutions specialist at Caris, provides the underlying technology municipalities can use to create Web sites able to attract more businesses and increase economic health in a region by growing its tax base.

“”We took the data that was largely textual-based and we leveraged that by putting spatial context to it,”” said MacKenzie, discussing the solution being used by the City of Summerside. “”Developers who are about to relocate can use the portal to get a concept of what things are like on the ground. Now the data is a little more rich. The portal gives the data context.””

Someone thinking about coming to the city won’t get much of a feel for what things are like in the area by simply looking at a civic address listed on a Web site, added MacKenzie, but by using spatial technology to give the appropriate context, people will end up getting a better understanding of what certain properties look like.

Ronald Gruia, program leader for enterprise communications at Frost & Sullivan Canada in Toronto, agreed that there are a lot of practical reasons a municipality like the City of Summerside would use a portal to ramp up its economic development efforts.

“”Basically what they want is the ability to consolidate all their services on a single site so that they can increase access,”” he said, “”and reduce operational expenditures and make them more effective in developing services.””

So far, the response to the Web-mapping portal has been positive, said Thususka. But while the solution was initially designed primarily for economic development purposes, he continued, the city eventually plans to use the underlying mapping technology in police cars.

MacKenzie from Caris confirmed that there are many different uses for the technology, such as tracking snow plows to better deploy them in the event of major snow storms.

“”You can also use the technology to solicit feedback from the public,”” said MacKenzie, adding that a citizen who finds his or her sidewalk in need of repairs could, go to the municipal’s Web-mapping portal, find the exact location of his or her house on a virtual map, pinpoint on the map the exact location of the damaged sidewalk, save an image depicting the pinpointed area and send the saved image via e-mail to the right municipal department.

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