More on why iPads for City council make sense

Coun. Donovan Cavers uses his new iPad at council meeting.

Coun. Donovan Cavers uses his new iPad at council meeting.

ARMCHAIR MAYOR SAYS — Below is the Armchair Mayor column published in The Kamloops Daily News on Oct. 10. At that writing, I hadn’t been able to reach Dave Duckworth at City Hall to get some numbers on potential savings if councillors get City-paid iPads.

He did get back later with some pertinent information of particular interest to those afraid the iPads are just a wast of money.

According to Duckworth, 25-30 agendas are printed for each regular council meeting — some for council and staff, some for public, some for media. As I pointed out in a comment on The Daily News website, those agendas frequently run 80 to a hundred pages or more because they have to include quite a few reports.

Then, of course, there are agendas and reports for council workshops, and agendas and reports for in-camera meetings. And there’s staff time in producing them all and the cost of delivering them.

Copying costs range from 8 cents to 23 cents a page, depending on whether colour is required.

That’s why the approximate cost for agendas is $30,000 a year.

Some printed copies will still be needed, but Duckworth figures the savings from going to iPads could be around $15,000 a year, a number I think is conservative.

The pilot project that involved the purchase of iPads for four councillors to try out cost about $2,400, which is a pretty modest pilot project. One thing that hasn’t been figured out yet is how to get confidential reports and in-camera agendas to the iPads. That will have to be figured out with the CivicWeb program the City currently uses to post public agendas.

I don’t blame people for being skeptical when council members get what they perceive as new toys, but in this case it makes pretty good sense.

Armchair Mayor column, Oct. 10, 2013

The only thing drawing more attention at this week’s City council meeting than councillors’ new iPads was a Kami fish sticker on the lid of Ken Christian’s tablet.

Christian, Nancy Bepple, Tina Lange and Donovan Cavers are trying out City-paid iPads for reading their council agendas. If the technology works well, they’ll keep them.

Anyone worried this is a waste of tax money can relax. Council is just catching up; by the time it makes a final decision on iPads every other council will have those new Dick Tracy wristwatch computers.

Mayor Peter Milobar has been an early adopter of new technology, being the first on council to use a personal Blackberry back when he was a councillor and Blackberrys were the size of flat-screen TVs. Councils everywhere have been using iPads since they came out in 2010.

The theory is that tablets save money on paper and ink. According to staff at city hall, printed agendas cost $30,000 a year — that’s for all copies, not just the ones for council members, so the exact savings is fuzzy.

Elsewhere, though, the theory has become fact. Councillors from Kelowna, Chilliwack and Fernie to Prince Albert and Regina to Melbourne in Australia and London, England use iPads for public business.

So do Stephen Harper and Christy Clark. Barack Obama gets his daily intelligence briefings on one.

In the Washington state city of Vancouver, they say using iPads for council meetings saves 50,000 pages of printing a year. That’s about $200 per meeting and a kindness to the environment.

It’s not a slam dunk, though. There’s a movement in the corporate world to BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — and compensate employees with an allowance. Indeed, Kamloops council already pays itself a cellphone stipend instead of supplying the actual phones.

And, there are exceptions on the savings front, too. In Shropshire, England, the council was reported as spending the equivalent of $604,000 on iPads to save $33,000 on pens and paper. But that included pricey data packages and surely went beyond just councillors.

Laptops have been handed out to Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors for the past decade. I was an instant skeptic, especially when I saw some directors surfing the Internet during meetings.

But, let’s face it, new gadgets are always going to be used for more than work. If Kamloops council can be criticized, it’s for not making enough use of new technology and social media to engage the public. For example, Arjun Singh, Bepple and Cavers are faithful tweeters, while Marg Spina and Christian tweet a couple of times a month.

Some use Facebook but, overall, the record isn’t stellar. They aren’t alone. Though he has a city-issued iPad and iPhone, Kelowna mayor Walter Gray shut down his Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as a website when the last civic election campaign ended.

So, any advancement into this century by council members, especially if it saves a little money, is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, about Christian’s rare Kami sticker. He isn’t telling where it came from but reveals he got it the same day the iPads were issued. “It’s the one with the gun,” he says of the Kami image.

About Mel Rothenburger (9652 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on More on why iPads for City council make sense

  1. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before the City issues its councillors iPads for meetings. Then of course, it will only be a matter of time before they’re paying less attention to the council issues at hand and more attention to who has the higher Angry Birds score. 😉

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