In June, we had a very serious storm in the Northeast. The rain and weather caused mudslides that interrupted rail and road travel. The flooding made some areas inaccessible overnight. As a result, a regional monthly meeting was cancelled.
One option I suggested was that future meetings could be done by video link. This would save on transport costs and would allow more people to attend. The initial response, despite the storm, was negative. The issue was not the technology. I have been involved in some webinars and web-chats so the technology exists and is getting better. As the meeting was on short notice, we could not arrange the technology to be set up in time for holding the meeting. The technology and the concept have been around for a long time so there was nothing new in that issue. There has been a long interest in using it to reduce travel costs. However, the following piqued my curiosity.
In the following, I use Skype as shorthand for any telepresencing technology. I realize that there are important differences and nuances to the technology and how they are used. I am interested in the general principles and how well, if at all, they are being used within local government.
Many people have Skype* for personal use. In some cases, people use it for work. I was wondering how many people have Skype* for work and use it with colleagues in their own organization or with other organizations?
Does anyone use it across his or her Councils or between Councils? I have seen some articles on this idea. A 2008 blog showed the security issues and the use of other bespoke systems. http://www.johnconnell.co.uk/blog/?p=724
The problem is not using skype* for work or for personal use. The issue, it appears, is how to bridge the professional/ private divide. The concern over privacy and having a private space appears to be the greatest barrier to the public taking up the technology. We may use the telephone as a bridge that allows us to control what others can see. If we have a video link, the control is lost as someone can see you and your surroundings.
What this means is that eople can accept it for private use and for professional use (F2F and B2B) but never combine them.
If we are on the cusp of a virtual council, will video conferencing and skype with customers be a major or minor part of that change?
I would be interested in your views and your experience with using skype* in local government and whether the privacy barrier can be overcome.