By Diane Strandberg The Tri-City News
Aug 24 2007
Technology developed with $9 million in taxpayers’ money and sold to a Vancouver company two years ago is back in the hands of Port Moody and Coquitlam.
And the cities earned just one tenth of 1% of potential royalty payments on the deal.
Computers, content management software and educational and promotional materials were transferred back to the cities in March of this year after CS Networks Inc. closed its doors and stopped hosting the citysoup.ca community web portal. If sales had gone as planned, the cities stood to gain up to $15 million in royalties. Instead, the company gave up after two years, paying out a total of just $15,000 in royalties to PoMo and Coquitlam.
“They didn’t give us any reason [for shutting down],” said Joe Wozny, executive director for the Smart Choices Society, which continues to market the citysoup.ca content management system and provide support for communities wishing to use it or similar technology.
But Wozny maintains the deal wasn’t a bad one for the cities because they now benefit from software improvements the company made and lower hosting costs because CS Networks got a better deal with Telus.
The cities now host the web portal, which allows people to use the internet to register for recreation programs, pay city bills, and link to community groups and information.
Colleen Rohde, a spokesperson for the city of Port Moody, said the change won’t affect the long-term operation of citysoup.ca, including PoMo’s 18 clients, as the cities continue to operate the portal and support customers themselves.
“From Port Moody’s perspective, we remain committed to supporting the citysoup.ca portal in our community and are very proud of the extensive community involvement and usage of this online tool,” Rohde said in an email. “Forty per cent of our recreation registrations are now completed through the online services developed under citysoup.ca.”
Earlier this summer, Coquitlam city spokesperson Therese Mickelson said the hand-over with CS Networks went smoothly and the Smart Choices Society continues to operate, with city staff and community members on the board.
Wozny said he maintains an office at the Innovation Centre in Coquitlam, and works “a number of hours to make sure Smart Choices is a success.”
Among the projects on the go is an online community memory project with a Cranbrook First Nations group.
Smart Choices began about six years ago with an Industry Canada grant, and the cities of Port Moody and Coquitlam contributed cash and staff time to develop the citysoup.ca portal and content management system. In all, the taxpayer-subsidized contributions, much of it staff time, are totalled about $9 million.
In 2005, looking to capitalize on its public investment, Port Moody and Coquitlam sold the citysoup.ca technology to CS Networks Inc., with the proviso that the company market, sell and develop the citysoup.ca business and the technology.
At about the same time, the provincial government gave the Smart Choices Society $400,000 to promote the citysoup.ca system to other cities.