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Data Hero: Collaboration

When Esri President Jack Dangermond announced York Region was the recipient of the 2020 Esri President’s Award for GIS, he said it was thanks to the Region’s 25-year focus on working together with partners and using data to solve problems and make a difference in the community.

Carolynne Saxton, the Town of East Gwillimbury’s GIS Coordinator, is one of the many partners he was referring to.

Carolynne wears many hats beyond GIS guru, including technician, IT handy-person, visual analytics producer, project manager and more. Although clearly self-sufficient, Carolynne is quick to acknowledge York Region’s support.

“A lot of the work we do uses Regional data,” she said. “Also, I never feel alone because I get help and support from many of the Regional experts who contribute to solutions.”

One of her recent solutions is a new tablet-based application for the Town’s emergency services Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Survey Program. The mobile app allows firefighters to collect smoke detector data in residences throughout the community.

Since its launch, the project has eliminated months of manual data entry and improved the Program’s data accuracy and completeness. It has also given the Fire Chief and Deputy a dashboard and map with real-time analytics to support their planning and response.

“I love problem solving,” says Carolynne. “People come to me with problems and we look for opportunities. I've got all these powerful tools, but the tools don't mean anything unless I can actually use them to help make someone’s life easier.”

With that in mind, Carolynne’s work with building permits and the provision of occupancy data is making life easier for the Region. East Gwillimbury is sharing its occupancy data with the Region in the Data Coop.

“The Region can access our up-to-date occupancy information so the team can make decisions without waiting,” she said. “There is actually a live feed directly to it.”

This is significant because municipal services like water and wastewater, EMS, garbage and even property taxation are triggered with the occupancy permit.

“The occupancy permit lets people move into their homes and flush the toilets,” she explains. “The Region needs to know when that happens. It's all about thinking how we can make an impact and benefit the business. By giving the Region easy access to this information, it makes decisions and processes that much faster. And, it may improve other workflows beyond somebody turning a valve.”

Teema Kanji’s team receives this building permit information and oversees the intake of development applications from the Region’s nine local municipalities. Teema is the Manager of Programs and Process Improvements in the Community Planning and Development Services Branch in Corporate Services. Her team is a driving force behind the creation and implementation of the YorkTrax solution – which has recently won the 2020 Excellence in Municipal Systems Award from the Municipal Information Systems Association of Ontario.

YorkTrax has significantly streamlined and automated the plan intake, review and approval processes. The management and staff involved throughout the Region are now using trusted and consistent data with vastly improved reporting and analytics.

Even though the plan review and approval process is much better, the Branch continues to struggle to get occupancy data from the local municipalities in a consistent and timely manner.

“This data and the other building permit help us operationalize a lot of work associated with Regional infrastructure and housing supply,” Teema explains. “Unfortunately, each local municipality provides their building permit data records in their own way typically on Excel spreadsheets.”

The team has an ongoing challenge with data integration and eliminating data duplication. Data is inputted at the local level and then the Region inputs the exact same data.

“We need to get to a point where if it’s collected at the local level, we can ‘absorb’ it and use it in real-time, rather than re-input it,” Teema said. “That’s our goal.”

Teema is quick to praise Carolynne’s work in East Gwillimbury.

“East Gwillimbury provides its data within a map-based layer which really serves our purpose,” she said. “Carolynne gets the big picture and East Gwillimbury is willing to work with us. I see this as the beginning of a great relationship that I hope to use as an example for other municipalities to follow. I’m quite excited about this.”

Data Heroes like Carolynne and Teema are not only improving data access and sharing within their own organizations, they are making it happen between the Region and the local municipality, improving business processes and decision-making through collaboration.


Data hero; York Region When Esri President Jack Dangermond announced York Region was the recipient of the 2020 Esri President’s Award for GIS, he said it was thanks to the Region’s 25-year focus on working together with partners and using data to solve problems and make a difference in the community. The Regional Municipality of York en-US News

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