Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced a partnership with OCAD University’s Visual Analytics Lab and an ambitious open data plan as part of the City’s ongoing improvements to the recreation registration process.
Fall registration opens on September 10 and is the busiest sign-up period of the year. More than 102,000 families and 16,000 individuals registered over the four days of fall registration in 2015.
To improve the experience this year, server capacity has been increased by 25 per cent so that more people can access the system online. The website has clearer navigation and planning tools, additional customer service hours were added and staff will be available across the city to provide in-person support.
“City staff work hard to accommodate the huge demand for our city’s popular recreation programs,” said Mayor Tory. “But our system needs to improve and I want the smart and creative people of Toronto to help us find solutions. These open data initiatives are part of our commitment to think differently about how to make registration and recreation program planning better.”
Mayor Tory was joined at the announcement in the Visual Analytics Lab at OCAD University by Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 York Centre) Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee; Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD U; Janie Romoff, General Manager of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation; and members of the Technology Advisory Group, private sector leaders who were appointed in March 2016 to provide advice and insight to City staff.
Improve residents’ experience
“Our faculty and students were excited to participate in a project that will improve residents’ experience of the city’s tremendous recreation programs,” said Dr. Diamond. “This is a great demonstration of how design helps us understand and make use of data, to improve social engagement in our community.”
Under the leadership of faculty members Dr. Patricio Davila and Isabel Meirelles, a group of OCAD U students has analyzed historic recreation data to help understand the demands on the system. The data set has also been released publicly, along with current program registration data that will be updated daily. This will allow third-party developers to create new tools to help residents with recreation registration planning prior to the registration process.
“It is vital that fairness and accessibility be part of our recreation registration process,” said Councillor Pasternak. “Through these efforts we hope to provide technological solutions that ensure residents’ first experience with the City is a positive one.”
The City is in the process of replacing its current registration system, which is at the end of its life and is not meeting the needs of Toronto’s nearly 200,000 registered program users or City staff. While the system is not expected to be replaced until the end of 2017, the City has committed to ongoing improvements to the current process with more underway for December registration.
“After every registration period, our team analyzes the data to make sure we offer the right services when and where they’re needed, and to find ways to increase access to our in-demand recreation programs,” said Romoff. “I’m excited to see what creative and innovative solutions emerge from this data.”