Sunday, 17 July 2011

Social media entrepreneurship for OCC and its councillors

I'm not a blogger, I tweet and about once every six months I update facebook but I never blog. The reason I have decided to write this is to try and save my county council some money. In April Lib Dem councillor David Turner put forward a motion to have the council meetings for Oxfordshire County Council recorded and theses recordings put online so voters could watch them when they wished. This was voted down by the Tory run council. Cllr Rodney Rose said at the time “It would be nice to have, but the nice to have things are what we are not spending money on.” Other district councils in the area have similar schemes and on the face of it the costs are quite high. South Oxfordshire reportedly spends £16,875 per year for their service, Cherwell £19,415 and Oxford City £595 per meeting. I don't have a break down of what these costs are but it seems a very high figure for a web camera, hosting, storage and a few web pages. My idea for Oxfordshire County Council is to not bother with recorded webcasts, just transmit them live. The costs would be almost nothing, a decent IP Camera costs less than £100 pounds, I presume the council meeting room already has ethernet ports or wireless, microphones and a sound system (councillors love to be heard!) Then all needs to done is create a page on their site, set the DNS so the camera is available outside the internal network, stream the sound and we are set. Obviously things are slightly more complicated than this (DNS can be a pain I know) but not much more. I estimate that at a maximum this cannot cost more than £500 quid. This is where the social media bit comes into the post. Recently the county council hired a 96k director of communications, I don't know who this person is or what the remit for the role is but I cannot help thinking it is a waste of money. The comms output of OCC consists of providing quotes for the Oxford Post and Mail (why councillors cannot do this I don't know, they mustn't have heard about the big society) and sourcing and publishing "News" on the OCC site. They also update a twitter account that links to these posts. Why don't they use the twitter account for something more useful and actually tweet what council meetings are starting and link to the webcast. Then voters can follow the account and watch any meetings they feel might interest them. Councillors who take part in the meetings could also do this I know at least three OCC tory councillors have twitter accounts. Finally Keith Mitchell wrote a piece in the Guardian (the mad lefty paper he probably calls it) and I quote: "Social networking will become even more important and councils must step in to help councillors who are not yet e-literate." Now this sounds to me like they want to get taxpayers to pay for expensive social media training (probably at great expense from the LGA or some other public sector cartel) for the councillors who don't use twitter, facebook, myspace or google+ etc. Knowing how much Keith wants to save money for taxpayers I offer myself as a big society volunteer to train (free of charge) any councillor who wants to use social media, it will take about twenty minutes. In fact since he already tweets and has a facebook account Keith could actually volunteer himself. I hope if Keith or any councillors read this they will actually take all the above seriously and not as some sort of political attack. I have no political allegiance, although I admit I once subscribed to the Lib Dems but stopped after about 3 months as they were spineless on too many issues. Below are a few links where I have nicked quotes and facts:

Keith's Guardian piece:

Oxford Mail, Council meetings to be kept off internet:

A IP webcam from amazon, has both wireless and ethernet:

P.S I also offer to buy the webcam if Oxfordshire County Council want it.