The District Council of Mount Barker in Australia and Kokopo/Vunamami UrbanLocal Level Government in Papua New Guinea have come together in a capacity building partnership as the two Councils share many similar charateristics – rapid growth, similar population, and an agricultural hinterland and heritage.
The main partnership objectives:
1. Establish effective communication between Kokopo and Mt Barker;
2. Improve the information technology system in place in Kokopo;
3. Provide MYOB as an electronic accounting tool; and
4. Implement a complete Rate Revenue Business System
Implementing Telstra’s Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Technology was a partnership defining link between Kokopo and Mt Barker. With Lync, any team member can see if their counterpart is at their computer and online, and then call them up quickly and ask a question, both visually and verbally, without having to explain it in an email and then wait for a response.
All of files and documents are shared and synchronised between Kokopo’s Desktop and the Cloud so if the internet goes down in Kokopo, the staff can keep working in MYOB and when the internet connectivity is restored all of the data will automatically synchronise.
The ability to do this has proven critical in providing timely assistance to Kokopo in order to make significant progress in getting their rate collection system in place. Additionally, the Cloud provides an excellent data back up strategy.
We can make international funds transfers using banking software that converts Australian Dollars to Kina. This facilitates prompt payment to local IT or communication service providers.
Improving IT communications was fundamental to providing a cost effective platform to manage and contribute to future partnership projects such as asset management.
The ICT infrastructure put in place is both inexpensive and easy to replicate and rollout, so the work to do that in another Council would be very small compared to the benefit it would provide.
Mt Barker has looked at other ways it could use Office 365 in its daily operations. We are trailing this technology with some of our Elected Members with a view to implement paperless Council meetings by the next Local Government Elections in 2013. Mayor Ann Ferguson has successfully made the transition to being almost paperless, by simply accessing the Council meeting agenda from the Cloud and downloading it to her iPad.
The communications and IT solutions implemented under the partnership have really made the program work for both Kokopo and Mt Barker, and allowed us to make significant progress delivering on our key objectives in a relatively short period of time. We communicate regularly, stay on track and provide support almost immediately.
In terms of capacity building, it is technology that has enabled our partnership to extend Kokopo staff in terms of levels of comfort, understanding and technical knowledge.
Our experience, to date, is that this has been a capacity building and empowering partnership for both Councils, and emphasises the importance of partnerships fostering shared knowledge in order to achieve meaningful outcomes.