Collaborating with the Prince George Public Library turned out to be a successful endeavor for the city's first e-town hall meeting, said library staff.
During Tuesday night's budget consultation, the webcast was displayed on a large screen in the library's computer lab and there were more members of the public in the room actively engaging with the city website and webcast than there were in council chambers.
"What I noticed was an even greater number of people [than at computers] at the library walking around and stopping to watch the webcast," said library communications co-ordinator Andrea Palmer. "So I thought that was a really interesting occurrence that there were people who still, for whatever reasons of their own, may not have wished to participate but were certainly pleased to be able to have some time to watch the process."
Palmer said despite the technical difficulties which caused the webcast to lose audio at the beginning at the resulting 20-minute delay, those in attendance at the library didn't lose interest and leave.
"But I thought it was fairly trouble free considering all the things that can go wrong," Palmer said, adding she would like to see the city expand this type of civic engagement. "I think they can go even further with it and I think with the success of this initial model that we can really go from here."
Statistics regarding the amount of people who engaged with the e-town hall are expected to be released in a future budget-related meeting. In its first outing in Nanaimo this spring, which the Prince George event was modeled after, the webcast garnered 139 viewers.
Factors which the Vancouver Island city attributed to their success include the process' transparency to the public through the use of social media to collect submissions and the ability for moderation "allowing filter of duplicate or inappropriate input, along with early insight into upcoming questions."
For the Prince George meeting, questions could be submitted in advance of Tuesday through the city's online budget survey, which city communications and civic engagement manager Chris Bone said was advantageous.
"Sometimes questions require some research to be answered adequately," she said. "So I think advanced preparation is always nice because staff feel that they're answering the question to the best of their ability."
Questions which staff weren't prepared to answer will be answered in a report to committee of the whole on Oct. 28.