Could live video streaming help ‘clean up’ local government?

Australia’s local governments do a lot of good for their communities.

But as they have shrunk in number and therefore grown much larger in size, their ability to meet the highest public standards for communications and accountability is being challenged like never before.

Some local councils in Australia span distances and support populations to rival or even exceed small European nations. So delivering essential services to people on that scale, while managing huge swathes of land and assets demands more than good will and intent.

That’s part of the reason for the NSW State Government’s announcement late last year of the so-called ‘webcasting’ decree, which will require councils in the state to live stream council meetings.

As discussed in our previous blog, the move is expected to make it easier for people and communities to be properly informed about regulations and changes that affect their lives, and to play a more active role in shaping them. Attending council meetings will no longer be determined by people’s family or other commitments and whether they can physically attend chambers.

Rather, live video streaming technology means they can log in and take part no matter where they are, and regardless of what device they’re using.

The NSW State Government is hoping this new approach to communications will help local councils function – and behave – a lot better.

 

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Greater transparency and accountability

Ready access to reliable information and transparency for citizens has become a key theme for discussions on how to improve the standard of government all over the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes Open Government as: The transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information, and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands and needs’.

Australia’s commitment to open government is described as being built upon three key principles:

  1. Strengthening access to information
  2. Collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery, and
  3. Making government more consultative and participative

Experiences at state and federal government agencies – and in the private sector – have shown that live video streaming inspires a style of communication that is more open and engaging, while also having a much greater reach. This willingness to collaborate openly with customers and citizens is assisting organisations to build greater trust and strengthen reputation with their audience.

Information and messages need to be clear and consistent, as they’re delivered in real-time. But video streaming solutions are also designed to allow the audience to share ideas and opinions with each other and the presenters.

This, in turn, encourages councils to think more carefully about what they’re trying to communicate, and of course the implications of everything they do.

An important feature of webcasting/live streaming is that broadcast events and content are able to be archived, not only allowing people to catch up on information they may have missed, but also providing a reliable ‘record’ in the event of confusion, conjecture and/or the need for councils to be held to account. True transparency.

Crucially, live video streaming solutions typically employ clever technologies such as bit rate streaming, WAN optimisation/stream splitting, peer-to-peer and of course ‘the cloud’, to eliminate the expense and management headaches network admins normally associate with video broadcasts.

They also have important security functions that make it easier for moderators to control who sees what content and how it is shared.

Australia’s local councils are orders of magnitude bigger than they were before the spate of mass amalgamations that started some 20 years ago. And one of the biggest challenges this has brought has been to ensure more services are delivered to more people, at the same time giving them a say in important laws, policies and decisions that affect their lives.

Achieving this requires that local governments operate in ways that are fully transparent, and that make them genuinely accountable to those they represent.

It’s hard to think of any ‘technology’ more capable of affecting this sort of cultural and functional change than live streaming and webcasting.

The effects are already starting to be seen at the federal and state level, with several key agencies reporting improved communications and client / community engagement.

This year it is expected that more local councils will recognise the potential for live video streaming to engender greater confidence and trust by enabling a closer, two-way style of interaction that speaks to the 3 principles of open government stated above, and are in the spirit of the OECD and other respected international voices pushing for better government.

While obviously being important for local people and communities enjoying greater peace of mind and a better quality of life, this will also ultimately make it easier for local councils to do the jobs they were elected to do.

Viostream is a pioneer of live video streaming in Australia, having helped some of our biggest brands and most critical government agencies deploy the technology for better communications. Connect with us today to learn how your agency can work better for itself and its communities.