Terrebonne council opts for paper-free meetings

The City of Terrebonne has declared war on paper.

With technology from IBM Canada and PNCGlobal, the city has created what officials say is Quebec’s first paperless municipal council.

Every council meeting tends

to generate stacks of paper for councillors to go through, from zoning information to tax data. Yves Ouellette, Terrebonne’s IT services manager, said councillors had been asking the city for years to find a way to reduce it.

“We were looking to put all the documents that used to be on paper into an electronic format. Everything from tax information, legislation information, even documents in our archives,”” he said.

Terrebonne looked around to see what other municipalities were doing to address the problem, and the common answer seemed to be providing councillors with a CD containing the information for each meeting.

That would work with council meetings being held just monthly, but Ouellette said with a municipal amalgamation under way — often requiring two meetings a week — CDs wouldn’t work.

“That would be a lot of CDs to produce, and it would just be replacing paper with CDs,” Ouellette said. “We wanted something only in electronic format for easier distribution.”

The answer was a portal solution using IBM’s WebSphere Portal Express. Each councillor has been issued a laptop and can access information by logging onto a municipal intranet from home, the office, and at the council table.

“The access to the information will be a wireless solution,” Ouellette added. “We’re using WiFi technology to access the database from their laptops, so we won’t have to worry about programs to connect them from the home or the office.”

Mark Boyer, advisory sales specialist, Web Sphere business portals for IBM Canada, said the Terrebonne installation is a typical portal implementation for IBM, except for the way the city is connecting to the network wirelessly.

“Although we see WiFi getting more traction in the marketplace, it’s always interesting when organizations adopt technology like WiFi access,” Boyer said.

Boyer said Web Sphere Portal Express is designed specifically for the small and medium enterprise market, and although it’s implemented in a business-to-employee internal instillation here, it could easily be extended into an external portal for local citizens down the road.

“We’ve been working across the country with a number of cities on similar projects,” Boyer said.

When dealing with sensitive information security is a concern, and a solution from PNCGlobal has been employed to secure the Terrebonne network.

PNCGlobal president CEO Jean-Pierre Boudreau said in a case like this authentication needs to be better then just typing a password into a Web page. What they’ve put in place for Terrebonne is a two-phased authentication.

The first is physical authentication, a solution PNCGlobal calls UNI-ID. Each councillor has been issued a business card -sized mini-CD that can be used in any computer with a CD drive. The cards allow access to the second phase, with an application that prompts the user for their password and connects them to the authentication server.

“Here we integrated our authentication server directly to the authentication module of Web Sphere,” Boudreau said. “When people use their UNI-ID CD card and type the password, they log directly into the Web Sphere portal.”

Boudreau said the UNI-ID solution is gaining popularity in the municipal market, and is already seeing wide use in medical clinics and the medical space.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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