Greenstone builds portal to bring communities together

The newly amalgamated Municipality of Greenstone has commissioned Navantis to design a community portal to bring together its disparate townships and connect it to the rest

of the electronic world.

“”Right now we don’t have a presence on the Internet today, so to speak. There is a mediocre municipal site and there are a few businesses that have tried to develop their own. But short of that, we don’t have anything,”” said Roy Sinclair, CAO of the Municipality of Greenstone, a small town in Northern Ontario.

Navantis, a Toronto-based company, will use Microsoft’s Content Management Server, a program that promises to improve productivity and cost effectiveness. Its primary component is site development, which configures hardware and software to handle multiple templates and pages while ensuring the program is consistent and flexible to the needs of the consumer.

“”We’re going to be doing all the development of the portal, like business analysis, determining what is needed all the way through to developing coding and implementing it and provide training for the community on how to develop it,”” said John Kvasnic, CEO of Navantis.

The Municipality of Greenstone welcomes the online tool because it will grant residents access to a Web site which contains various private and public services.

“”We will be able to have lots of information available to all our constituents,”” said Sinclair. “”It will level the playing field between us as a rural community and the larger centers like Thunder Bay and Toronto.””

The Web site plans to offer services such as applying for building permits, reviewing minutes from a recent governmental meeting and providing commerce capabilities to local merchants who would like to sell their products online. Residents and tourists of Greenstone will also be able to verify the local weather and road conditions.

The portal will allow the various townships surrounding the municipality to access government information as well as viewing advertisement by small businesses.

The Municipality of Greenstone is currently awaiting the approval from the provincial government to finalize and fully install the portal onto the Internet.

The portal is a project sponsored by the provincial government program, Connect Ontario, a component of SuperBuild. It focuses on Ontario’s expansion into a completely electronically connected region, concentrating especially on the IT development in rural communities.

Sinclair states that the government has approved their initiative with Navantis to construct the portal, but they are currently awaiting agreement of funding.

“”We have been approved to put together a business, Greenstone Connected. Once the funding is approved…(and) is in place, the site will be up and running within the year,”” he said.

The municipality has requested a $600,000 grant from Connect Ontario as well as a $300,000 subsidy from FedNor, a federal funding agency. The municipality has also promised to invest $150,000 if the provincial government approves the financial support.

“”This is a $1.4 million project,”” said Sinclair.

Navantis is providing the hardware and software to design the portal; afterwards it will be up to municipality to maintain it. Greenstone has already appointed New Venture Enterprises to ensure the continuing functionality of the Web site.


“”Part of the portal that most of the users don’t see is the back end, the administrative side. We design it in a way so that it has content management capabilities. So that a non-technical user can easily post information … or sell something through the auction,”” said Kvasnic, whose company is also currently developing a community portal for Sudbury, Ont.

Greenstone has a population of 5,662 and covers an area of 3,000 squared kilometers. The average distance between each townships of the municipality is thirty to seventy kilometers, which increases isolation between the communities.

“”By being able to access this one central Web site, it would go a long way to bring the community together,”” said Sinclair.

Since hardwiring would be too time consuming, wireless connection will provide Internet services for the residents. The portal should be up and running within the third quarter of this year.

“”We expect great things out of this,”” said Sinclair. “”We hope to go from having little or no presence today to having a major presence down the road as a consequence of this project.””


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