The only thing drawing more attention at this week’s City council meeting than councillors’ new iPads was a Kami fish sticker on the lid of Ken Christian’s tablet.
Christian, Nancy Bepple, Tina Lange and Donovan Cavers are trying out City-paid iPads for reading their council agendas. If the technology works well, they’ll keep them.
Anyone worried this is a waste of tax money can relax. Council is just catching up; by the time it makes a final decision on iPads every other council will have those new Dick Tracy wristwatch computers.
Mayor Peter Milobar has been an early adopter of new technology, being the first on council to use a personal BlackBerry back when he was a councillor and BlackBerrys were the size of flat-screen TVs. Councils everywhere have been using iPads since they came out in 2010.
The theory is that tablets save money on paper and ink.
According to staff at city hall, printed agendas cost $30,000 a year — that’s for all copies, not just the ones for council members, so the exact savings is fuzzy.
Elsewhere, though, the theory has become fact. Councillors from Kelowna, Chilliwack and Fernie to Prince Albert and Regina to Melbourne, Aust., and London, Engl., use iPads for public business.
So do Stephen Harper and Christy Clark. Barack Obama gets his daily intelligence briefings on one.
In the Washington state city of Vancouver, they say using iPads for council meetings saves 50,000 pages of printing a year. That’s about $200 per meeting and a kindness to the environment.
It’s not a slam dunk, though. There’s a movement in the corporate world to BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — and compensate employees with an allowance. Indeed, Kamloops council already pays itself a cellphone stipend instead of supplying the actual phones.
And, there are exceptions on the savings front, too. In Shropshire, England, the council was reported as spending the equivalent of $604,000 on iPads to save $33,000 on pens and paper. But that included pricey data packages and surely went beyond just councillors.
Laptops have been handed out to Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors for the past decade. I was an instant skeptic, especially when I saw some directors surfing the Internet during meetings.
But, let’s face it, new gadgets are always going to be used for more than work. If Kamloops council can be criticized, it’s for not making enough use of new technology and social media to engage the public. For example, Arjun Singh, Bepple and Cavers are faithful tweeters, while Marg Spina and Christian tweet a couple of times a month.
Some use Facebook but, overall, the record isn’t stellar. They aren’t alone. Though he has a city-issued iPad and iPhone, Kelowna mayor Walter Gray shut down his Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as a website when the last civic election campaign ended.
So, any advancement into this century by council members, especially if it saves a little money, is a good thing.
Oh, yeah, about Christian’s rare Kami sticker. He isn’t telling where it came from but reveals he got it the same day the iPads were issued. “It’s the one with the gun,” he says of the Kami image.