Making the decision-making process more accessible
At local government level, very few people are aware of how vital decisions are made. The average person knows the council is in charge of schools, roads, parks and bin collections, but not many know how important their local authority is to their everyday lives. Everything from what time the local pub closes to the location of a new multimillion- pound shopping centre, is decided by the council. Within every town hall, city chamber and local government building, a myriad of offi cers are working to ensure the right choices can be made by the committees who ultimately make these decisions.
And yet, despite the importance of these committees within each of Scotland’s 32 councils, very few members of the public are even aware of their existence, let alone fi nd the time to actually sit through the hours of debate.
This is a problem which councils are working to change, in a bid to make their decision-making process more accessible and transparent.
Now a UK company has come up with a method to open up this forum to a wider range of people. Civico specialises in providing live and archived webcasting with unique social web tools for councils, public facing organisations and conference venues. The company is currently in talks about streaming certain Scottish council meetings over the web.
The new digital service – CivicoLive – uses live and archive web casting enhanced with seamlessly integrated streams on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Civico has developed a unique application that enables viewers to create and instantly share their own micro edits of the stream from within the timeline, making the content more efficient, relevant and accessible for a world immersed in online living. The Civico Player also enables people to enrich the timeline allowing them to tag and embed their own contextulised data anywhere within the timeline, such as documents, graphics and video.
Another capacity the app aims to include is ‘audio to text’ transcriptions, which would offer complete inclusion for events and meetings and enable multilingual translations in both text and digital audio. Harnessing the text facility, viewers can jump and navigate through the content using a word search. CivicoLive facilitates virtual-attendance for council meetings or conference events allowing individuals to fully participate without leaving the home or offi ce.
Last month, Civico worked with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Improvement Service (IS) to screen the keynote speakers at their annual conference in St Andrews live over the internet. The service was available to members of the public and remains online. It features the useful tool of allowing viewers to click on any part of the schedule and takes them to parts of the conference of particular interest.
In Scotland, Civico is interested in working with councils who have expressed an interest in improving public access to council meetings, for example, full council and planning. As Civico’s system is fully web based, there is not usually a need for councils to consider any additional hardware or software. The company, in partnership with IS, is offering a workshop, ‘Introduction to webcasting for councils’, which is designed to meet the needs of managers and communications officers tasked with exploring webcasting as an option for their council. Civico hopes this workshop will take place soon in Edinburgh.
Daniel Cremin, managing director and the driving force behind Civico, said: “Civico has the potential to make the democratic process significantly more accessible. It can also generate better understanding and engender trust in the local democratic process, benefi ting councils and individuals alike.
“For the first time, there is the potential for live, online interaction with policy makers, while councils have an opportunity to demonstrate new levels of access, open government and social inclusion. This is truly 21st century local democracy for a world increasingly emerged in online living with greater expectations to access local services online.
“In addition to a significant increase in attendance for civic meetings, there are also economic and environmental benefits to the system, since there is a reduced need for some delegates or stakeholders to travel distances to attend meetings in person.”
In partnership with the Personal Democracy Forum (PdF), Civico first unveiled its digital democracy service during the European PdF from the Torre Agbar in Barcelona and went on to cover the main PdF USA event from the NYC University Conference Suite. The PdF is the world’s largest conference on politics and technology, where technologists, politicians and journalists come together to explore how technology and the internet are changing politics, democracy, and society.