In the May 22nd City Council meeting a recommendation to was put forward for the purchase of 22 iPad 3’s for the Council and Senior Management. This is to help implement a paperless Council agenda and to allow for paperless distribution of council meeting minutes. In a previous meeting the decision had been made to purchase the iPads although only iPad 2’s rather than 3’s. It is claimed that this initiative will save $5800 per year by reducing paper usage but does the city council really need to spend $15,000 on iPads?
Remember the phrase ‘paperless distribution of Council meeting minutes’ as it tends to be a fairly important one. It infers that this is how the minutes taken at the meeting will be distributed to the members of the council as well as the senior management. The minutes will be distributed AFTER the meeting (otherwise how else will they be distributed). Are iPads really needed for this? The majority of the council have Facebook accounts so they obviously have regular internet access, the others all have email addresses which suggest that they too have access to the world wide web. Could the minutes be transmitted via email to the council members? Perhaps security is the issue? Or perhaps it is wanting the latest and greatest that is driving this proposal!
Part of the proposed $15,000 will be spent on application fees (does Angry Birds really cost that much?) and installation of wireless access points at City Hall and remote corporate locations. It seems to make sense unless you read further and see an annual cost of $975 for monthly data plans. A data plan is a way of receiving and transmitting information wirelessly where ever you can receive a wireless signal. Cell phones work the same way, if you can make a call, you can browse the internet. So if $975 will be spent each year to make sure that the 22 iPads can go online, why are wireless access points needed not only at City Hall but remote corporate locations? How remote will these locations be? The Arctic Circle? Perhaps it is so when the Mayor and two others visit China looking to have a sister ship partnership (as suggested by the Blog on March 5th http://thestthomasblog.com/blogging/nathan/twin-sisters/ where it was pointed out that the current trend was to partner up with a Chinese city) they can still update their Facebook status?
The reason why iPad 3’s have been suggested over the previous iPad 2 proposal is to have the latest technology. On the surface this makes sense until you take a look at the overly designed Apple corporation and note that the original iPad was released on 27 January 2010, with the iPad 2 making its debut on 02 March 2011. The current flagship of the iPad fleet was released on the 7th of March this year. If you join the dots and continue the line to next year, it indicates that there will be the iPad 4 released in less than a year. Does this mean that for two of the three years that it will take to payback the initial outlay for iPads, the City Council will be content with technology that is no longer the newest?
While the iPad is the darling for those looking for the trendy, hip tech, what was the decision-making process that lead to the iPad 3? The main difference between the iPad 2 and iPad 3 is the screen. Double the resolution (looks better) so that movies and video games look better. Well that is certainly a good reason to look to the latest model if you are purchasing one for home use but for a City Council? Does a City Council really need a better display in order to read meeting minutes? It isn’t as if the iPad 2 was a shabby effort in the first place. Was the Apple product the only option? The Samsung Galaxy Tab II is easily comparable to the iPad 3 and yet is cheaper. Perhaps the name Samsung isn’t has hip as the one with the half eaten apple logo?
Remember the phrase ‘paperless distribution of Council meeting minutes’? Well based on this years City calendar there are 32 meetings a year. One every 11 days on average. Based upon the cost of $5,800 savings per year by purchasing the iPads, this means that each City Council meeting costs $181 for the paper version of the Council meeting minutes. You can buy 5,000 sheets of paper from Staples for $45, which works out at roughly 220 sheets of paper for each member of the Council as well as the senior management who will also be receiving iPads. That still leaves $136 for photocopying and putting the sheets of paper of the minute in the mailboxes of those receiving them. Oh, the number of pages from the 22nd of May meeting minutes was 45.
One bonus of the iPad is that it is portable, you can carry it in one hand. The down side of this is that they are very easy to drop to the floor and break, or to be left somewhere or stolen. Perhaps the recipients of the iPads will also receive special iPad carrying bags? They can’t be that expensive? And since 22 members of City Hall will be getting the latest and greatest tech, obviously all will be able to use them to their full potential, otherwise more money would have to be spent on support and training.
Given that it is possible to view documents on your cell phone just as easily as it is to read them on a computer screen at home, does it really make sense to spend money that could, and perhaps should, be spent on the City, on 22 tech toys that probably won’t be used every day of the year?
22nd May 2012 City Council Meeting Minutes https://stthomas.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentDisplay.aspx?ID=2613