On to the next project…open source infrastructure including accounting software

Now that a low-cost asset management & GIS alternative is in production and starting to be adopted by other communities, it has given me the confidence to commit myself to the next project which is to design open source, standards based accounting software linked to a wider infrastructure which pulls together financial, non-financial activity, sensor, statistical date in a coherent data lake. This is a beginning of interesting journey which I hope ends in an effective alternative to current proprietary solutions and sustainable open source movement to support it. I have much learning to do and this is an huge project….but I am committed to this. Furthermore, my current service-fee model will support this quite well without necessitating support while saving taxpayers tens of thousands or potentially even hundreds of thousands dollars.

The advantages of this are huge and self-evident from cost, access, governance and innovation perspectives. For one thing, small communities will not be forced to spend increasing amounts on software. Second, data can be shared across communities and reports and statements standardized and made inherently comparable. Third, oversight can be vastly improved as compared to current mechanisms such as LDGE etc. It also offers a unique opportunity to apply analytics to identify and preempt issues. And critically, the larger data sets will allow application of AI across the sector. This is very exciting!

Improved data collect app

During the last few weeks I’ve rewritten the data collect app to provide more intuitive interface and added the capability to edit or add new assets to the web mapping system. In addition, I’ve added the capability for the manager to audit and approve the additions or changes. This allows public works staff to add or change information in the field intuitively. The next step is adding all our service-line information to the map and the upgrade lets me delegate the task to public works… a win-win 🙂

Supporting volunteer groups

I have decided to support local community groups by donating 25% of my fees after the first year when much of the set-up and mapping work is complete. Feels quite satisfying to be able to make difference by not only to small rural municipalities by providing access to tech via open source & cutting costs drastically but also being able to support local community groups.

Stimulating creativity with open source

Creativity is thriving at the village facilitated by open source tools. Our web site is based on WordPress which has allowed us tremendous freedom to add and modify content with ease. Staff has also started contributing more content. Introduction of WordPress to museum staff followed by open source media tools is empowering them them expand into creating rich multimedia and streaming content. The COVID crisis has only increased the importance of these tools for public information and discourse.

System Design Complete! :-)

The design of the system is complete and I am very pleased with the final product. It is powerful while retaining simplicity in its code base. This is a practical software to be used operationally, day to day. It is not just a collection of fancy reports that have no bearing on the reality of running a small municipality. I put a lot of though on the design of the reports to convey useful information while avoiding unnecessary complexity. I’ve also been able to shave off costs for servers etc allowing me to offer basic service for free and thus democratising asset management. This compares to tens of thousands to implement anything near the functionality of the system. I had set out to design a system that was inclusive and I am proud to have accomplished that , allowing small municipalities to access a toolset not otherwise afforded to them. This also builds the platform that will allow me to expand into low-cost sensors & AI. Now comes the marketing which admittedly is not my strength, although I think in time with the quality of work and word of mouth I should be able to reach a significant audience.

Workshop results

The AM workshop was a success. There were a full range of municipalities from the very small to larger ones like Burnaby present. I believe everyone took away something practical from the workshop. I had finance professionals working on GIS and Databases and kept them engaged so I consider that a success! The feedback has been positive. The interest in BI continues so that it could be a recurring topic for future workshops.

Integrated Asset Management for small municipalities

I am conducting a GFOABC pre-conference workshop demonstrating a full-features system comprised of an integrated database, GIS system, Business Intelligence based reporting and a web-application. This hands on workshop has participants building an asset management system with real world data and gaining practical experience and appreciation of challenges involved. Participants need only to bring their laptops and desire to learn. No prior technical background necessary.

Please load the following on your laptop: