Eganville -- At a council meeting on September 21st that started with the new Indigenous land acknowledgement, North Algona Wilberforce Township (NAW) council considered new digital tools to better engage and communicate with community members.
The first technology that North Algona Wilberforce council members considered is the “Citizen Alert” application, from a Quebec-based company run by Tamie Salter. The app’s founder, Ms. Salter, presented to council by video link and pitched the versatility of the app
“The app will run on any device, apple, android…” she said, adding municipalities that use the Citizen Alert app to communicate with their citizens can customize the interface. “You can add in information like newsletter or garbage collection,” she said.
The app functions similar to the provincial emergency alert system. If the township issues an alert, it would appear on the phone of anyone who had downloaded the app within three seconds.
“People do not need to register with this system, which means your town(ship) does not need to keep a database of email addresses or telephone numbers,” Ms. Salter explained. “You can avoid public data protocols because [of this]”.
NAW township would have to pay a fee per resident to purchase the app and it would then be customized with the township’s name and logo. The app would be free to download for community members.
Council also heard from Braedan King through a video presentation from All-Net Municipal Solutions which the township already uses for its council meeting agenda software. All-Net Municipal Solutions offers “Connect” which they described as a “municipal mass communication system”.
Rather than an app, the system is a kind of customer relationship management software that the township would use to contact community members with a text, email, or phone call.
“Registrants who register for the system can choose… what kind of information they want to receive from the municipality,” Mr. King explained.
The “Connect” software can also reach people without a smart phone, including on landlines by giving them a call.
“Apps can be counterproductive because you’re asking someone to download another item to your phone… they may not have space for it,” he said. Connect requires residents to register on a website. “I think this is something that is really going to be beneficial,” Councillor Doug Buckwald said. “We can get more information out really quickly when we need to.”
“This is a great tool that is available to the residents and doesn’t cost the residents anything to utilize it and for those who just have a landline, they still can be contacted and receive the information,” Mayor James Brose added.
Council voted for staff to prepare a report and recommendation for the October 5th meeting further detailing the two options and the associated costs.
At the same meeting, council approved a grant application in collaboration with Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township for a “Digital Main Street Service Squad grant”. The grant would consist of a free resource of trained digital specialists who would help small businesses in the area navigate new digital tools.
Chris Neff, Community Development/Document Management Coordinator for KHR will submit the application and coordinate the program.
“Most people don’t recognize the geographical boundaries of a municipality,” Mayor Brose said. “This is another great way to bring it all together.”
Christina Vietinghoff, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader