A House of Keys committee has, for the first time, taken oral evidence in public in the Legislative Council Chamber from a witness via a live audio-visual link-up.
On Tuesday 28th October 2014, the House of Keys Bill Committee on the Landlord and Tenant (Private Housing) Bill took oral evidence from Hon. Chris Robertshaw MHK, Minister for Policy and Reform, together with Sam McCauley, Head of Policy and Legislation and Debbie Reeve, Director of Housing, Department of Health and Social Care.
In addition, they were joined via a live link on FaceTime – a popular communications app on the Apple iPad – by Alison Evans, a legislative drafter for the Attorney General’s Chambers, who is currently living abroad and working remotely.
Born out of a need to save the time and prohibitive expense of a return trip to the Island in order for Ms Evans to attend the hearing in person, Tynwald officers were tasked by the committee to find an appropriate solution using modern technology.
Head of Hansard Ellen Callister explained: ‘We had to bear in mind not only the practicalities of a video link-up but also the requirement for a high quality audio feed for both the listen live/listen again facilities and production of the Hansard record of proceedings. We carried out various trials to test the capabilities and limitations of the technology we already had easily available to us, and came up with a combination of using an iPad and TV screen to provide the visual support, together with a small loudspeaker to provide a quality audio output which could then be picked up by one of our existing microphones. ’
Despite the distance Ms Evans was therefore able to both follow and contribute to the whole committee proceedings. She said: ‘The Isle of Man Government provides a great working environment and the flexibility to work remotely is just one of the many reasons why. Using this new technology has enabled many participants to come together in one place, participate in and contribute to the legislative process, despite distance and very busy schedules. I’m very grateful to Ellen and her team for making the technology available and to Tynwald officers generally for permitting the use of new technology. I hope using such technology can open up a world of possibilities to the Isle of Man for the future.’
Roger Phillips, Clerk of Tynwald and Clerk to the Bill Committee, said: ‘This has been a great example of a minimal cost, innovative solution evolving out of positive collaboration by several officers from different areas of public service. We hope to build on this initial success to make more use of available technology, as it opens up the possibility for future Tynwald committees to take evidence from a wider range of people than ever before.’
Pictured is the committee in session with Ms Evans on screen (photo: Graeme Jones, Tynwald Information Executive)
For further information:
Deputy Clerk of Tynwald
Legislative Buildings, Douglas, IM1 3PW
Tel: (01624) 685500