In the News Archive
September 2005

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Hand-held, positioning technology supports BC’s weed fight

The spread of invasive plants costs millions of dollars every year in lost productivity – in agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation too. In the battle against these plants, British Columbia's Cariboo Regional District field crews spray herbicide and pull the weeds by hand. They used to record their work through drawings and notes; now they will use a new mobile data collection system that employs real-time global positioning system (GPS) units and handheld computers to map weed infestations and the corrective actions being taken. Land/map information held in the region’s GPS system has been loaded into the handheld units. Data being recorded from the field crews is overlaid on the GPS map information in the handhelds and must then be downloaded and synchronized with the main database – ensuring the most recent and accurate information is always available. According to Cariboo’s Brad Payne, the region had found that “syncing” the data was an issue, so they did extensive research and tested other products. The software solution provided by Tadpole Technology PLC (offices in the UK and US, www.tadpolecomputer.com) was found to “work perfectly within minutes of being implemented,” he said. Data on the weed program will be shared with other government agencies.

Saskatchewan tests new road material

Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation (www.highways.gov.sk.ca) is partnering with the University of Regina, the Saskatchewan Scrap Tire Corporation, the City of Regina, the National Research Council and the Prairie Rubber Corporation in a research project to examine the potential of crumb rubber asphalt concrete on the province’s roads. The rubber asphalt concrete will be used in the driving lanes of a 20-kilometre stretch of Highway 11, from the south junction of Highway 2 to Chamberlain.

This type of asphalt, produced using crumb rubber manufactured from recycled scrap tires, is thought to lower traffic noise, reduce pavement thickness and offer longer pavement life versus conventional asphalt concrete, without changing road construction operations.

Ottawa airport develops award-winning glycol treatment

Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority was selected the winner of the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) 2005 Environmental Achievement Awards. The Canadian Airports Council (CAC), represents Canada’s non-federal airports for industry policy and regulatory matters.

The airport developed a glycol bio-treatment system, where at a minimal cost, glycol-impacted storm water is captured and treated so that it does not attract wildlife and can be safely released into the surrounding environment. Glycol is used in the de-icing process. According to the press release, “ideal indigenous soil conditions and a network of perforated pipes have allowed the airport to treat the storm water underground using bacteria. This innovative system has proven that glycol-impacted storm water can be treated in-situ with no impact to neighbouring bodies of water.”

Burlington automates property tax collection system

The City of Burlington, Ontario has chosen Active Government Solutions, part of The Active Network, Inc. in San Diego, California, to automate its property tax collection system. Active Government Solutions (www.activegovernments.com) offers municipalities cashiering and payment management software solutions, such as Payment Manager. Burlington will use Payment Manager software to integrate with its tax and financial systems. The software eliminates the need to manually enter data for every financial transaction into every city system; staff will have to input only once. The software also provides “a single reporting tool for all transactions across the organization, electronic real-time payment processing, automatic bank reconciliation and settlement with its financial institution, and a standard point-of-sale system to accept payments through various methods, including over-the-counter and the Internet.” The software should make balancing the “cash” at the end of the day much less time consuming and more accurate and will allow the city to be more proactive in managing delinquent payments. Once the property tax project is complete, Burlington plans to integrate Payment Manager with its parks and recreation department.

Nova Scotia contracts Medavie Blue Cross to administer Medicare

Effective August 1, 2005, under a new multi-year contract, Medavie Blue Cross will administer the Nova Scotia’s Medical Services Insurance (MSI) and Pharmacare programs. Nova Scotia’s Department of Health has been doing business with Medavie Blue Cross since Medicare was introduced in 1969. Last year, the province paid Medavie Blue Cross $8.35 million for these services.

The new five-year, performance-based agreement defines clear expectations, performance standards and penalties. Medavie Blue Cross must meet 29 specific service level requirements in key program areas. The contract has one three-year automatic renewal, two one-year automatic renewal options. The transition period is estimated at one to two-years.

According to the news release, ”the province will pay an estimated $10.4 million per year for the Medavie Blue Cross services. The fixed administration costs are $6.2 million per year in years one to four, and $5.6 million per year in years five to 10. Variable costs are estimated at $4.2 million per year and will fluctuate depending on transaction volumes. The contract allows for annual operational increases, which will be determined using CPI and Nova Scotia wage adjustment factors.”

As part of the deal, Medavie Blue Cross will also develop a new IT system to handle the Nova Scotia Department of Health’s Medicare and Pharmacare services.

Alberta invests in e-health records

Over a period of three years, the Alberta Ministry of Health and Wellness will contribute $143 million and the federal government’s Canada Health Infoway will contribute $46 million for the equipment and services necessary to digitize patient X-rays and CT and MRI scans across Alberta. New diagnostic imaging systems will allow hospitals and clinics, no matter their size, to electronically share the digitized images through Alberta’s Electronic Health Record (EHR). As part of the Regional Shared Health Information Program, there will be three diagnostic imaging repositories – Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.

The EHR is intended to increase the speed of accessing accurate health records, help increase the productivity of healthcare professionals and provide long-term cost savings through reduced storage requirements and electronic sharing of information. The ultimate benefit is improved patient care. The province’s goal is for every Albertan to have an e-health record by 2008.

Schools advance using advanced technology

Winnipeg: As the result of the amalgamation of St. Boniface and St. Vital School Divisions in 2002,Winnipeg’s, Louis Riel School Division encompasses 43 buildings spread over 113 square kilometres. Each of the former school divisions had its own fixed wireless wide-area network (WAN) based on different equipment and network architectures. Terago Networks, which operated one of the original networks, was given the challenge of bringing the two WANs into one integrated network – completed last fall.

Toronto: The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), which is the result of the amalgamation of seven different school boards, is determined to put all the different technology in its 576 schools onto one standard platform – a project targeted for completion in December 2005. The new system will reliably support the delivery of all the programs that the Ontario Ministry of Education requires in the curriculum. Each student will have a their own user ID and a personal electronic space to display and store their work. The new system will allow students to move from one school to another within the TDSB without changing their home electronic space.

Saskatoon: The Saskatoon Public School Board is working with Nortel Networks to move from its old PBX system to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). The school board chose Nortel because of its partnership with SaskTel and its prior experience with a similar project in Saskatoon’s Catholic school system. The new network will be introduced one school at a time until all 54 schools sites are connected; the network hub will be located at the board’s central office. Every one of the board’s teachers will have their own IP phone complete with their own phone number, voice mail and conferencing capabilities. School paging and intercom systems are also being upgraded to IP. The new system will not only allow parents to reach the teachers directly, but it will increase the overall capacity of the network, allowing for wireless access, distance learning and the delivery of high-end media such as digital video.

Supplier to government finds new emerging markets

Source: Ontario Exports Inc. (www.ontarioexportsinc.com)

Ottawa-based FreeBalance has used its 20-year history of providing financial accountability software and services to the Canadian government as a springboard to export these services to places like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Guyana and Mongolia.

The expansion earned the company the Market Expansion – Service award at the 7th annual provincial Ontario Global Traders Awards (OGTA) held this spring. The awards program is coordinated by Ontario Exports Inc., the export development agency of the Ontario government, and celebrates the export achievements of small and medium-sized enterprises in Ontario.

FreeBalance software and services were created to respond to demands for greater government accountability and are used by more than 100 government organizations on five continents.


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