Today, mobile technology is a truly integral part of our world. The number of devices may not be growing as explosively as it used to, but nevertheless, a recent study in The Netherlands puts tablet ownership at 67% of the population, with smartphone ownership even higher, at no less than 83%. Obviously, so many people owning, carrying and using mobile devices is driving change and introducing new, interesting options at many levels of our society, including decision-making processes in local government.
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Three advantages of digital meetings
Some of us still remember phones as bulky items with a separate mouthpiece and power cords attached. When we needed information for the school essays we had to write, we went to our city libraries. To younger generations, this sounds like something from prehistoric times. Not having their mobile phones right at hand everywhere they go, is inconceivable to them. Not being connected, any time, any place, not carrying a world of knowledge and information in the pocket of your coat, accessible at the touch of a button, is a totally alien proposition for people who grew up with smartphones and tablets. Devices that can of course be put to all sorts of very good uses professionally as well. Let's consider the concept of digital meetings, for instance. Let's look at the general, obvious advantages. Specifically, let's look at the city council voting process.
Advantage 1 – Streamlined decision making
In our democracies, it is essential that we reach shared decisions in transparent ways. Digital meetings can make this significantly easier to do. Currently in the Netherlands, only very few city council members, not more than 10%, are still relying exclusively on paper documents for their meetings. The general consensus being that digital meetings are a great way of streamlining document flows, ensuring that everyone - administrators and citizens alike – always have the right to up to date information and proper insight in the procedures to be followed. So, the growing acceptance, among cities and city council members, of digital meetings as the obvious way to go, is readily understandable.
Advantage 2 – Tablet or smartphone voting
The time for voting is not necessarily during a meeting itself. Sometimes, voting can take place in advance. If, for instance, there are five items on the agenda, three of which have been agreed upon through voting at an earlier time, only two remain open for discussion during the actual session. Which saves a great deal of valuable time. Also, there is immediate visibility in the voting behaviours of parties and individual representatives, who, completely in line with modern times, can comment on their choices through social media. Adding to transparency and engaging the general public in local politics. In short, strengthening the democratic process.
Advantage 3 – Digital sign-off
Digital signatures are perfectly acceptable to confirm the legal validity of democratically agreed upon decisions. Signed documents can then be stored, safely and permanently, in digital city archives, where they remain available to all interested parties – civil servants, administrators and politicians. One simple search and they have all the information they need.