COQUITLAM, B.C., May 11, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game-changer for technology in Coquitlam, as solutions for emerging needs are quickly becoming part of the way the City does business.
Technological innovation is nothing new for Coquitlam, which has adopted a variety of advanced solutions and has planned for more in its 2018-2022 Technology Roadmap. Even so – as Council heard Monday from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) team – the recent sudden and widespread reliance on technology has required a nimble response that has included fast-tracking some projects and re-purposing existing hardware and software for new uses.
Technology Roadmap Pivots to Focus on Pandemic Resilience
Coquitlam traditionally favours a long-term planning approach and relies on its 2018-2022 Technology Roadmap to guide the selection and use of technology. As the City’s ICT team puts its troubleshooting skills to work to address new and urgent needs, the Roadmap continues to provide guidance but with a focus on measures that support remote service-delivery and physical distancing.
The updated selection criteria prioritizes remote work solutions, remote or physically distancing service-delivery, automated processes, enhanced public services, and improved cyber-security measures.
Rapid testing has been critical, with first, second and third choices typically lined up for critical functions. In some cases, different types of similar technology have been found to be better suited for certain uses. For example, virtual Council meetings and recreation programs are being offered via Zoom, while virtual building inspections are utilizing Skype for Business.
Daily collaboration between ICT staff and their counterparts at other cities in the region has helped streamline the testing and selection process.
The additional technology investment is estimated to cost $150,000 to $300,000, some of which the City may be able to recover through provincial emergency funds.
New Solutions Embraced
Dozens of digital solutions have been quickly rolled out over the past month – some in less than a week – to allow City services to continue during the pandemic. The work has included:
- Enabling more staff to work from home, with guidelines and technology such as secure remote access to the City network, and secure private communications through the intranet;
- The City’s first-ever online Council meetings using video conferencing;
- Coquitlam’s first-ever virtual recreation program (all now full) using video conferencing, along with a suite of online recreation content at www.coquitlam.ca/spirit that is also proving popular;
- The City’s largest virtual Emergency Operations Centre, using mobile, video conferencing and cloud-based platforms to coordinate the pandemic response;
- Remote building inspections, during which customers show critical features to inspectors via video conference, to allow important construction projects to proceed;
- Adoption of electronic signature software for corporate and customer documents;
- Improvements to the 14 free public WiFi locations that can be accessed through the CoquitlamConnect app, and planning for additional coverage;
- Development of a new online portal to support local businesses through the pandemic;
- Preparing a pilot program to bring low-cost high-speed internet options to businesses in under-served areas of Coquitlam; and
- Staff training and enhanced cyber-security measures to protect City and public data as more work and services go online.
Many improvements will remain in use long after the pandemic ends, as both the City and community become accustomed to the improved convenience and experience they offer.
Join Coquitlam’s Efforts to #SupportLocal
The City of Coquitlam has joined the Tri-Cities #SupportLocal campaign to assist local businesses, many of which are struggling at this time. Coquitlam also strongly encourages residents to #SupportLocal for their shopping and meals; view business listings at www.wegotthistricities.com and 150+ local takeout restaurants to www.visitcoquitlam.ca.
Supporting Our Community During the Pandemic
The City of Coquitlam is here to help, with these resources:
- Visit www.coquitlam.ca/csrp to learn about the City’s Community Support and Recovery Plan, which is providing immediate and long-term support for the non-profit sector, businesses and residents;
- Visit www.coquitlam.ca/spirit for a free library of activities for all ages, including fitness, arts and culture, outdoor activities and ways to connect with your community; and
- Visit www.coquitlam.ca/covid19 for updates on City services and initiatives and COVID-19 health resources.