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Vancouver to vote on offering more city services online

Vancouver city council will be voting Wednesday on a digital strategy that would put more city services online, including licensing and permit applications, and offer WiFi in parts of the city.

"The real power pack in this strategy is in the service delivery and the increased convenience and options for our citizens and businesses of Vancouver," said Sandra Singh, Vancouver's chief librarian and the executive sponsor of the digital strategy.

The plan proposes WiFi service for certain parts of the city, including the Granville Mall and the SkyTrain, Ms. Singh said. "The demand for WiFi is insatiable, and it's not free. So we're looking at a very targeted rollout of WiFi to select city priorities."

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The digital strategy includes a proof of concept program, which would allow entrepreneurs to use the city's assets to demonstrate that their technology works.

"For example, if a company had just developed a technology that would allow cities to track parking meters remotely, we'd let them install their technology on some of our parking meters," Ms. Singh said.

"And they could use it to show other cities that they have a working demonstration in Vancouver right now."

The plan aims to introduce a mobile strategy that would allow staff to work remotely from job sites.

"The mobile workplace strategy is absolutely critical to moving forward in the city," Ms. Singh said. "We need our staff to be able to do the work they need to do during the day where they are."

For example, building inspectors currently need to return to the city after visiting a site to research and file their reports. In the future, they could do their research and filing on site before heading to the next inspection.

Although several different initiatives are already under way, the digital strategy brings them together into a coherent framework, she said. A senior staff position would be created to oversee the strategy.

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However, because many Vancouver residents don't wish to use online services, Ms. Singh said the city doesn't envision a future that is completely digital. "We see a future where there will always be an option for in-person service."

The four-year plan is expected to cost $30-million. Approximately $28-million has already been approved.

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