Helping Edmontonians Access The Services They Need

Hundreds of Edmontonians are able to access benefits more easily, thanks to a new tool hosted on Cybera’s Rapid Access Cloud.

Individuals, families and community workers in Edmonton are spending less time sifting through the myriad of information on financial needs and assistance, thanks to the recently launched online screening tool, You Can Benefit.

Each month since November 2017, over 500 people have used the not-for-profit service to look up information on over 30 municipal, provincial and federal social and financial benefits, and subsidies, that apply to their unique situations. The benefit eligibility screener tool saves users a substantial amount of time, as it collates all this information in one, easy-to-use place.

Here is how You Can Benefit works:

  1. Users complete the Eligibility Screener form by answering a few basic questions to determine which benefits or forms apply to them.

  2. A list of all of the municipal, provincial and federal benefits and subsidies that apply to them then appears.

  3. Users click on the appropriate links to learn more about each service provider and/or to be redirected to their website.

OR

  1. Users browse through a list of all of the services or benefits available, such as the Alberta Seniors Benefit or the Stay-At-Home Parent Subsidy, or browse through a list of other useful social and financial documents, such as an Alberta Health Insurance Card.

  2. Users click on the appropriate links to learn more about each benefit provider and to be redirected to their website.

The idea behind the eligibility screening tool grew from conversations between Steven Myers, a recent University of Alberta Computing Science graduate, and BetaCityYEG, a meet up group for Edmonton public employees, citizens, and various members of the tech/data community. One of the group’s volunteers raised the need for a simple program that helps people who are looking for support to improve their lives. Myers just happened to have access to the right hosting technology for this kind of digital program.

Soon after these conversations began, the screening tool started to take shape. Through partnerships with the City of Edmonton and the End Poverty Edmonton initiative, the City Centre Church Corporation (e4c), and Cybera, You Can Benefit was developed.

“A lot of people really do need these resources, and they might be totally unaware they are even eligible,” says Myers. “Sometimes they just need a little bit of help, a little push, to accelerate their lives. This is one of the greatest ways to escape poverty.”

Examples of who might be using the web-based service include families that are new to Canada, individuals living on the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, as well as social and community support workers.

The You Can Benefit website is hosted on Cybera’s Rapid Access Cloud, a resource that Myers learned about while he was still a student. This Alberta-hosted infrastructure provides free cloud computing resources to academics, researchers, non-profits, and innovators looking to test out their ideas. Myers first used the Rapid Access Cloud to build and test the You Can Benefit infrastructure, and now relies on it to securely serve and distribute the content from his website. The users’ personal information is not collected or shared with anyone or any other service.

“Using Cybera’s Rapid Access Cloud was helpful, because there was relatively low friction and the technical support was great. It was as a quick turnaround,” says Myers.

The technology used for the You Can Benefit website is all open source and stored on GitHub, meaning that if other organizations or municipalities with similar objectives wish to replicate the program, it should be relatively easy for them to do so.

The Rapid Access Cloud will continue to host You Can Benefit as long as people are using it. Myers is also sharing the website’s visitor number analytics with the City of Edmonton, to help them shape future programs that will support those most in need.