On November 25th, Televic co-hosted a webinar with Inavate APAC, the information website and magazine for specifiers, installers, and users of audio visual and related technologies in professional environments. The topic at hand: balancing flexibility, scalability, and security for government spaces.
For this occasion, Televic Conference’s product manager Didier Rosez joined an expert speaker panel with Mr. Thaweesak Thamsirisup, President of Thailand’s leading AV distributor and system integrator Vichai Trading (1983), and Gavin Bunn, senior account manager at Pro AV Solutions in Queensland, Australia. The webinar was facilitated and broadcasted by Inavate APAC from their home base, Singapore.
Zooming in on the major trends and changes impacting government meetings and conferencing spaces, led to 5 key take-aways from the webinar :
The panelists witnessed over the past year a rapid change in what governments – ranging from national parliaments to regional and municipal councils – want and need for their meeting space infrastructure.
A first driver for change was the need to facilitate social distancing between physical participants in the council room. People sitting farther away from each other and/or being separated by plexiglass walls had an impact on the intelligibility of the discussion. This increased the need for high-quality audio solutions for each participant. Also, moving the council meetings to larger venues increased the demand for flexible, portable, and wireless conferencing solutions.
A second phase in the evolution was initiated when in-person meetings needed to be replaced with online video calls. While known platforms such as Teams and Zoom offer the ability for people to talk remotely, they do not incorporate critical features of a managed meeting such as voting, agenda management, meeting protocol management etc.
A third shift came when the pandemic eased and councils reconvened for physical meetings, but not all participants could be present due to circumstances such as quarantines, and the public was not yet allowed to attend the meetings yet. This created the need to accommodate so-called hybrid meeting experiences, where some participants are in the room and others join in remotely. Additionally, the legislation concerning transparency and freedom of information have steered governments and councils towards professional-grade transcription, recording and streaming functionalities built into their conferencing solutions.
All of the above have increased the awareness among governments and councils of the added value offered by system integration providers, as opposed to the ‘old’ way of working with different suppliers and service for individual parts of the meeting room lay-out.
While a lot of credit is due to public administrations for adapting so quickly to these new circumstances, the question that automatically pops up is: what will happen when the pandemic finally eases or passes. The speakers agree that at least part of the adopted changes will remain even when – and let’s hope this happens soon – the pandemic is a distant memory.
Remote access to a meeting will no longer be denied just for the sake of it, but will be accepted and facilitated for various reasons (pregnancy, maternity, leave, business trip, …). It will also be used to invite external experts or speakers into the meeting without the need for these people to physically travel to the council space.
Also, now that the unexpected has happened (no one saw this pandemic coming), governments want to be ready for similar situations in the future. We already see that new council space projects are either equipped with hybrid conferencing systems from the start, or they are built to accommodate less people in larger rooms, all with the appropriate audio solutions.
Whereas governments and public institutions are often reluctant to change, today this is no longer the case. This is one thing we must thank the pandemic for. Government officials across the world have made a mental shift to embrace the changes that were needed to deal with the new reality. This commitment to adopting change may shift down a gear after the pandemic, but the seed has been planted and will undoubtedly continue to grow.
Switching to online and hybrid systems, and incorporating built-in public streaming services has, of course, also had a serious impact on the governments’ in-house IT services. In that respect, today’s advanced conferencing solutions do already allow to reduce the workload pressure of managing hybrid meetings. Intuitive meeting management modules make it possible to manage physical and remote participants from one single, web-based interface.
Security, however, is still a big mental hurdle for a lot of IT specialists. Especially opening the network for streaming or remote support by the system vendor, is often seen as a bridge too far. It will be up to the conferencing industry to prove that their systems live up to the highest enterprise-level security and encryption standards. In the meantime, creating a separate second network for streaming purposes is a practical intermediate solution.
When it comes to convincing government bodies and municipal councils to invest in futureproof conferencing systems, we clearly see a snowball effect. In other words: success stories work. When one council successfully deploys a new system, neighboring councils will look at this and be inclined to mimic the solution.
We do want to point out, however, that customization beats standardization every time. Every organization, every council, and every space is different and may require a different approach. A reference that is often used to evaluate the value of the investment, is the tangible output quality, for instance a highly stable stream with excellent audio and video quality.
Curious to find out more?
You can watch the full recording of the webinar here.