STONEWALL has become the first town in Manitoba, and maybe the first in the country, to launch its own app.
The community iPhone application can be downloaded for free from the town’s website (www. stonewall.ca). The app provides residents and visitors with quick access to community information, maps and a business directory, said Stonewall chief administrative officer Robert Potter.
The app that puts the town of 4,500 ahead of other municipalities in using smartphone technology was a bargain, said Potter.
"It didn’t cost anything."
He’s friends with the software developer, Vern Sabeski, who lives in Stonewall and asked if the town wanted to be the first to test-drive the iTown app.
"Posting a flyer on the wall or a bulletin board or sending out an email isn’t enough to notify people anymore," said Sabeski, president of All-Net.ca. The Winnipeg software company specializes in developing websites for municipalities, with more than 100 clients in the U.S. and Canada, including the Town of Stonewall, 25 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
"To assume people will go to the website is not enough," said Sabeski.
"We still read email but, if you’re in your 20s, you grew up texting. You don’t go to websites, you go to apps and use your smartphone. Municipalities have to start looking at apps," he said. His market research hasn’t found a municipality in Canada that has its own app.
"With smart technology there are a lot of (communication) tools available for administrators... The challenge is to develop tools that enable them to do that as broadly as possible."
His company has developed a program that feeds information from the municipal website to the app and automatically updates the app when the website is updated. It would be fairly costly for a municipality to develop its own app, Sabeski figures: about $15,000 or $20,000. If a municipality is using a website his firm created, the app is more affordable he said.
"It only works on our websites so you don’t have to go through the expense of starting from scratch."