Colorado News Connection

September 12, 2017Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Rural Communities Keep Eye on City Hall Using Open Software

Roz Brown

DENVER - A Denver non-profit is making it easier for people interested in civic affairs to keep track of what's happening at City Hall.

Open Source Media has developed a new software being adopted by municipal governments that archives video of city meetings that residents can watch at home. Many rural communities either no longer have a cable provider that will host their civic meetings or it costs too much.

Open Media Foundation Executive Director Tony Shawcross says more than a dozen states and local governments are using the free or low-cost software that was first adopted by the Colorado House and Senate.

"Faith in government and trust in government is dropping, and if a government is interested in providing a higher level of transparency, we saw it as a big opportunity to help governments meet voters where they're at and really lower the bar for civic engagements," he explains.

Shawcross says Platteville, a small town north of Denver with a population of 2,600, was the first community to download and install the free software by themselves.

Platteville town administrator Mary Lee says without the free software, the town couldn't provide television coverage of city meetings.

"We have a lot of elderly folks here who like to know what's going on but they don't like to get out at night to go to meetings, and I can't imagine a small town out there that wouldn't benefit," he explains.

The cost for the software is tied to population, and free for communities of 5,000 or less.

According to Shawcross, the open software has allowed some communities such as Platteville to double or triple their community engagement.

"It's a good success story because it just shows that a government that has this interest, we can help make sure that they can make it happen regardless of their budget," he adds.

The Open Media Foundation is now working on a project to integrate the software with Open States, an organization that compiles voter data.