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Web opens up new world for government watchers

May 11, 2009
Original Publication : May 7, 2009 by Michael D. Bates
Hernando Today

There used to be a time when residents who wanted to participate at county commission meetings had to drive downtown and sit in the first floor commissioners' chambers.

Today, they can watch their county government at work from the comfort of their couch — or the porch, or anywhere else they happen to have a computer.

The public now has unprecedented access to the public meeting process and can see their elected representatives in action — anytime, anywhere.

In September 2008, the county purchased software programs that introduced live Web streaming, which allows people to watch either all or part of live government meetings.

The technical name for these programs are IQM2 MinuteTraq and MediaTraq and they work in tandem: the former automates the agenda while the latter delivers real-time and on-demand video streaming to the Internet.

In non-tech speak: People can now click on any part of the county commission agenda meeting, land use hearing, or planning and zoning meeting without having to wade through the entire proceeding.

The county paid an initial one-time expense of $29,800 for the hardware, software, training and licensing. The annual maintenance cost is $12,000.

No computer? No problem.

Subscribers to Bright House cable can still watch live meetings on Ch. 622.

But is watching government meetings from afar the same as actually attending?

Community Relations Coordinator Brenda Frazier sees both sides.

"It's a double-edged situation," she says. "We do encourage citizens' participation and the easier we make it for them to watch county government from their own home, the less incentive they have (to attend)," she says.

But Frazier believes the Web and television makes government more accessible for people who may not normally care about such things. And, if it happens to spur their interest enough to drive to a meeting and participate in citizen's input, all the better, she says.

Frazier says she is currently preparing a comprehensive analysis to see how many people are using the Web streaming service.

The number of Web "hits" has steadily increased, she said.

Frazier says she cannot track the number of television viewers because Bright House considers that proprietary information and won't release statistics.

To see the agendas, minutes and video of county commission meetings, go to the Hernando County Government website at www.hernandocounty.us.

Either click on the "agendas" button at the top of the home page or the 'live Web streaming" icon on the upper right corner of the page.

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About IQM2
IQM2 is a market leader in furnishing end-to-end public meeting and Open Government software solutions through their award-winning Open Meeting Management System applications including MinuteTraq (agenda process improvement), MediaTraq (Live/On-Demand Video Streaming) and E-Boardroom (electronic voting).

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