Swedish Local Government Evolves into e-Community

The city of Bollnas in northern Sweden has begun using streaming real-time video for better communication with its local residents.

Once every month, the delegate members of the city counsel hold a meeting, and this meeting is now broadcast over the Internet for all residents to follow.

Meeting subjects are published in advance, and during the session the citizens can e-mail their questions to be answered throughout the broadcasting. At a previous meeting broadcast, town residents decided where a new statue was to be placed in the town.

“Our goal is to engage the citizens in what is happening in the community and the city of Bollnas,” said city council chairman Jan-Erik Englund. “The Internet is a channel for local residents to follow and participate in the political arena for greater democracy in our society.”

Another result of the broadcasting is that more people are now attending the actual meetings, due to greater interest in what is happening in the area.

The technique behind the streaming media solution comes from the Swedish ISP and telco giant Telia. Telia Streaming Media uses servers with RealNetworks software, and users can view the meeting by downloading the free RealPlayer service.

The city of Bollnas is footing Telia’s IP bill for the service. The fee is SEK 10,000 (US$1,200) per month for every 75 users — a low cost for spreading democracy. Bollnas also plans to invest in the up-and-coming business sectors such as tourism, multimedia and environmental engineering.

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