Teranet Enterprises Inc., the private company half-owned by the Ontario government, has teamed up with Youngstown, Ohio-based LightGov. Inc. to jointly market and develop each other’s applications in Canada and the U.S.
Teranet, which is best known for automating Ontario’s land registry system,
is supplying the financial transaction technology used in such systems as online parking ticket payments. The Toronto-based firm offers ASP-style services and middleware infrastructure for government transactions known as the Unity framework.
LightGov has developed a number of e-government applications for procurement and surplus disposition, as well as for licensing and permitting, and tax and utility payment processing.
The partners will target their joint offerings to the municipal level of government, as well as to large townships and county governments.
“”We are a smaller company that has been growing in this marketplace and it’s Teranet’s experience that is extremely important to us,”” says LightGov CEO David Engler. “”When it comes to operating a system and ensuring customers their money is going to be transacted, and having it co-ordinated with the back end, it’s difficult to find a better solution.””
For Teranet, the advantage of the agreement is the access it offers to a huge market.
“”The U.S. market is 10 times as big as Canada’s,”” says Al Shaver, director of new technical development at Teranet. “”There are about 80,000 municipalities. What we’re partnering for is local market knowledge and contact. We could not have introduced ourselves to as many contacts as LightGov has introduced us to in the last six months.””
The benefit to the Ontario government, he adds, is that as the company profits, so does its half-owner — not just in value, but in job creation as well.
“”When we started Teranet the government was looking for certain things,”” he explains. “”It was looking to get a large project completed (the land registry automation), but it was also looking to create jobs. We had 66 people in the first year and there are 830 people today.””
Engler attributes the quality of the Teranet technology to the fact that Canada is more advanced than most other countries — including the U.S. — when it comes to e-government.
“”I think some of our governments as they start to move towards e-government applications are going to be looking at the Canadian models that are here — how they’ve done it, what type of success they’ve had and how we replicate that,”” says Engler.
LightGov’s products include an election services application, which allows political parties to accept contributions online, as well as an eGuardianship app, designed for those vested with caring for wards of the state. “”For example, one guardian with 500 wards, because it’s a social services agency, can take care of a number of people, pay their bills and keep track of their medication,”” says Engler. “”Teranet’s ability to handle complex financial transactions and split those monies into various components is a perfect fit for what we’re doing.””
LightGov also has a reverse auction surplus property disposition application, which lets governments list their surplus property for free in an online classified ad for a certain period before moving it to an online auction, which is a paid service.
Going, going, gone
“”Each year governments in North America create about US$7 billion of waste and a large proportion of that is electronic waste,”” says Engler. “”Right now governments dispose of that waste in a very unco-ordinated fashion — they advertise in their local newspapers or in the back of a magazine that there is going to be a sale of, say, a pickup truck. So the number of people who see that truck is available is very limited.””
The other problem is that governments tend to lose a lot of money when they sell surplus goods, he adds. “”It’s sort of the opposite of the $500 hammer. They pay too much and get too little when they dispose of it. That happens when they don’t aggregate the marketplace. They need to let each other know what’s out there and that’s what the product accomplishes.””
The online auction application lets governments, as well as non-profits, provide a link to the LightGov auction site so the branding remains at the local government level. The user, which can be the public as well as government, would first do a search at the local level but can also search for surplus goods listed by other jurisdictions. The application also allows for reverse auctions, which lets governments specify what product or service they’re looking for and how much they’ll pay.
“”They set the maximum price they would pay for the good or service and vendors come on and bid in reverse order,”” says Engler.