Pickering looking to upgrade meeting technology to prepare for the post pandemic world


Published December 14, 2021 at 2:21 pm

The pandemic has already proven many people in the corporate/government sector can work from the home, and the City of Pickering is already taking steps to make many of those temporary work-from-home positions permanent.

Now they’ve set their sights on council meetings, with an eye on making electronic council meetings – or at least a hybrid in-person/virtual model – a permanent fixture for the future as well.

The pandemic has forced municipalities to invest in technology to make the transition to electronic meetings smoother and ensure the public still has access to the decision-making of Council. And it’s those upgrades in audio-video technology – as well as the knowledge that a lot more upgrading needs to be done – that has sparked the interest in preparing for the post-pandemic world.

“What will be normal then is a huge question mark,” said Ward 1 Councillor Maurice Brenner, who moved a motion Monday to ask staff to investigate an enhanced hybrid meeting model and all that entails. “We’ll need to look at council meetings that are hybrid and see how to make it work.”

Brenner is doubtful we will be returning to completely open council meetings any time soon and even hybrid models where a limited number of residents would be allowed into the chambers could be problematic, especially for important issues.

Currently, members of the public who wish to speak to council need to re-register and the technology isn’t there to allow residents to decide during a meeting, for example, that they wish to comment from home on an issue.

It would require a major upgrade in camera equipment as well as ‘switching’ and other technology improvements, Brenner noted.

“It’s going to be very challenging.”

Brenner said the challenge won’t be undertaken by City staff alone, noting that some of the solutions would be “way above their skill set.”

“We’re going to need a consultant to talk with Cisco, our Web-Ex operator,” he said. “They’ll need to figure out what we need going forward and how much it’s going to cost going forward.”

Staff is expected to report back sometime early in the new year.

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