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The Auckland Regional Council has won the IBM award for 'Overall Excellence in the Use of IT' for the development of "Virtually thr"; an initiative aimed at encouraging Aucklanders to use public transport. The award was presented at the Computerworld Excellence Awards on Friday June 28.

Virtually thr, (meaning 'virtually there') is the text messaging and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) service linked to ARC's transport information website www.rideline.co.nz. It allows information about buses, trains and ferries to be requested and received by text messaging from mobile phones.

The award reflects our ongoing commitment to utilising technology for the achievement of environmental and social outcomes. Continuous technology development plays a vital role in the way the ARC achieves its outcomes. Not only do we make better information more accessible to more people, we also spend less money doing so and make good gains on our objectives for the region. We aim to make it as easy as possible for people to receive the best information on public transport.

Rideline (www.rideline.co.nz) has grown to handle around 400,000 interactions a year over the Internet giving people around the region detailed information, from simple queries such as "when does the next bus leave my location" to fares, route maps and even the walking distance required for a door-to-door trip.

Virtually thr is one of the many initiatives that have contributed to the 7% increase in public transport usage over the last year.

The ARC was a finalist for three categories of the awards including 'Excellence in e-Business - Business to Consumer' and 'Excellence in the Use of IT for Customer Service'. We were supported by business partners Transfund NZ, Datasquirt, Spatial Media and Ivan Barshinskey Productions.

About the Awards
The Computerworld Excellence Awards were instigated to showcase the high tech IT sector and recognise the contribution IT plays in growing New Zealand businesses. They reward innovation and thinking outside the square in use of IT. The number of organisations participating has rocketed up 25% on last year, and showcases the application of smart thinking to IT solutions. For the first time in five years, the awards have attracted more big companies than SMEs, with many previous finalists coming back for another attempt at taking out a category win. Judges commented on the quality of entries, saying they improved every year, making the choice of finalists an increasingly difficult task.

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