Mar 26,2005 - Tri City News
Tri city News - March 26/05
Smart Choices will reveal its hand at an annual general meeting in May and anyone with an interest in how this society managed to soak up $9 million in tax money in four years should make an appearance.
There is something to show for it but it's not easy for citizens watching their property taxes and user fees creep upward every year to grasp how the project, with its flagship citysoup.ca portal, could have cost so much money.
A portal is more than a website; it is an entry point to the web and has directories, links and has a search engine. It can be a useful service for an organization - the European Union has one - but it can also be too big and confusing. Anyone looking for a daycare or a restaurant can find it more quickly in other ways, and when it comes to connecting a community, imagine what a library, sports federation or volunteer centre could do with millions.
Smart Choices proponents insist the project has been a success - and who are we to argue? They have the financial documents, they know whether civic governments would have paid more than $4.5 million for technological upgrades anyway. And they may well have proof that Smart Choices did indeed put the power of access to information in the hands of people otherwise lacking skills.
But they haven't shared this information with the public they purport to serve because the folks running this initiative that was supposed to "extend the power of information" also do an exceptional job of acting bewildered when asked for information they don't think is important for the public to know.
The next step in Smart Choices' "quest" to "turn the internet upside down" with a "citizen-centric" gateway is to "partner" with a company to "facilitate" a sales and marketing "initiative."
That sounds nice. But what does it mean, what will we get and how much will it cost us?