Case Studies

Conet-Tech Case Studies

Team

Government Of Canada - Foreign Affairs

Case Overview

To promote prosperity, ensure Canadians' security outside the country, and promote Canadian culture on the global stage, Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) represents Canada worldwide via a network of embassies, and consulates and diplomatic offices. In 2003, The Consular Affairs Bureau within FAC wanted to increase access and functionality to the case management system it offers to remote embassies and consulates.

Customer Overview
Imagine your worst nightmare. You’re traveling abroad when you get robbed, losing your money and passport. What do you do? If you’re like thousands of Canadians each year, you turn to the local Canadian embassy for help.

Representing Canada around the world through a network of embassies, and trade and diplomatic offices, Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) works to promote prosperity, ensure security of Canadians outside the country, and promote Canadian values and culture on the international stage. Each year, thousands of Canadians who need assistance abroad or find themselves in distress while traveling, use the consular services offered by FAC through the Consular Affairs Bureau. The bureau helps travelers with anything from medical assistance or finding a missing person, to dealing with lost money and passports.

Business Challenge
Approximately 10 years ago, the Consular Affairs Bureau within FAC, realized it needed to apply technology to deliver a higher level of service to Canadian citizens who were traveling around the world. Additionally, the bureau wanted to improve the speed of services and address the increasing volume of requests, so it partnered with AMITA Corporation AND Conet-Tech to develop a technology-based solution that would offer employees the ability to access data from anywhere in the world. With more Canadians than ever traveling outside the country, a manual system could no longer be trusted to ensure speedy service to everyone. In fact in 2003 alone, FAC opened more than 180,000 cases and handled more than one million inquiries. FAC needed a more high-tech way to efficiently serve Canadian citizens.

It was also crucial for Consular Affairs’ data to be accurate and available in real-time. Sharing accurate and instantaneous information was important. We can’t afford to let people in a crisis situation wait 48 hours. We have to be able to respond as the situation unfolds.

AMITA and Conet-Tech developed a low-bandwidth Microsoft-based solution called COSMOS that enabled employees worldwide to access critical data, such as information about local disasters, who to turn to for on-the-ground support and other data to help Canadians in distress. Because of the difficulty and costs of getting a high-speed Wide Area Network (WAN) Internet connection to many remote places, the low-bandwidth factor was crucial. With the global solution in place, FAC became the first Consular Services division in the world to deliver this level of service.

Once COSMOS was set up, Consular affairs was able to implement an Operations Centre which acts as command headquarters, reacting to emergencies as they happen around the world, as well as a central information repository that is available when local embassies are closed. Adding the Operations Centre meant that a Canadian traveler, whether they’re in Belgium or Thailand or Congo, could call a 1-800 number and reach a Canadian employee who is up to date on the local situation. Consular Affairs employees can also alert local people when needed to provide assistance.

The COSMOS system was so successful that, in 2003, as part of its ongoing effort to improve service to citizens, Consular Affairs decided to increase access and make it more available to people in remote areas and smaller consular sites.

Solution
AMITA and Conet-Tech worked with Consular Affairs to develop a strategy for making more of the COSMOS application available to remote areas, and investigated a number of technologies including Java and Open Source. In the end, it chose to use Microsoft .NET connection software. We needed a completely integrated, seamless solution that could be supported around the world.

The .NET-based COSMOS application is designed for worldwide network environments with limited bandwidth. The model ensures that network traffic is kept to a minimum, ensuring performance across a network with TCP/IP connectivity. Conet-Tech and AMITA were also able to include a Web services capability – meaning a full version of COSMOS that runs over the Internet could be accessed by employees no matter where they were in the world. Instead of only being able to access the solution with scaled down functionality, Consular Affairs is able to provide employees with better access to the full application through Web services over the Internet.

In some places, there may only be a few hundred Canadians that travel to that location in a given year, and it doesn’t make financial sense to put in a dedicated network connection in those sites. By implementing Microsoft .NET software and Web services, FAC can now access cheaper bandwidth providers and go over the Internet instead of investing in a dedicated local-area network for every site.

 




Results
COSMOS demonstrates Canadian innovation by offering the best technology solution in consular services worldwide. In fact, due to the success of the Microsoft-based COSMOS solution, in 2003, Consular Affairs was awarded the Government Technology Exhibition’s (GTEC) Gold medal at the prestigious “Distinction Awards of Excellence” in the category of “Serving Canadians Better through IM/IT Innovations – Improving Service Delivery to Citizens and Business”

The result was remote access to the full COSMOS solution, better service to citizens abroad, cost savings, increased functionality and improved employee productivity – translating into better assistance for Canadian citizens abroad.

The technologies
- Visual Studio .NET and Microsoft .NET Framework, C#, ADO.Net
- Windows Server and SQL Server Enterprise Manager, Web Services, ETL
- Microsoft Project


 

 



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