As some of you will have already noticed, remote participation details are in the process of being posted on the ICANN Nairobi site.
Work on the remote participation for Nairobi began for me on the first day of December when I took up the post of Senior Director for Participation and Engagement, as the Board’s Public Participation Committee asked me to propose the suite of remote participation options for Nairobi. They, and the staff, clearly understood that we would likely see a considerable increase in the use of remote participation in Nairobi.
What was proposed, and after consultation with the PPC and internally with the Meetings team and other colleagues, was a different underlying approach. That approach is based upon the following principles:
A more standardised approach – we’ve divided up the different sessions into classes, and then given each class of meeting a set of basic services in common. We’ve ensured flexibility by adding to this a set of additional services available on request. Where that doesn’t provide enough flexibility and where special needs exist, additional services can be requested.
For example, where a key presenter at a session is unable to attend the physical meeting, we’ve had good results with them attending via Skype, with their audio connected to the public address system and video displayed onscreen.
This standardisation provides participants with advance notice of what they can expect as remote participants (and as a result they can then plan their attendance further in advance) and allows ICANN to announce remote participation for all meetings much earlier.
If you are interested in seeing the matrix of services to see how different classes of sessions’ remote participation needs have been accommodated, you can retrieve it in PDF format here: http://nbo.icann.org/remote-services-matrix.
A more level playing field for participants irrespective of the bandwidth they have. Both those with high bandwidth connections and those with more limited connections will find tools available to help them participate remotely. We’ve also reduced the bandwidth required for many services and provided more flexible choices for remote participants. For example, participants are able to choose a low-bandwidth streaming audio feed (for those sessions that support streaming audio) that requires 75% less bandwidth than it did at previous meetings.
Work to create a more equivalent experience between those participating ‘in the room’ at a session and those outside. Several measures have been taken to help integrate remote participants on a more equal level to those in the room. Everyone knows that there are many elements to a meeting that cannot be experienced remotely but ICANN is working to ‘narrow the gap’ between those in the room and those who are not.
Services should be designed in a way that does not require the installation of software on the remote participant’s computer or device, and which provides the same features on all supported operating systems or platforms. This is for several reasons, amongst them being: the need to allow people on devices as diverse as mobile handhelds, office computers, the use of many different operating systems across the ICANN community – and most importantly, so that everyone is treated equally. Wherever possible and reasonable, we look for open source / open standards-based products and systems.
In order to create a more coherent virtual attendance experience, all services will be setup per room, not per session. Amongst other benefits, this makes it easier for participants to bookmark URLs for remote participation services. It also helps give remote participation an underlying relationship to the physical meeting, as the remote participation ‘rooms’ in Adobe Connect, for example, have the same names as the physical meeting rooms do.
Monitoring Services during Sessions. A key part of ensuring the remote participation experience works well is ensuring that services are monitored – from a technical perspective but also in respect of the participants’ experience. In order to do this, technical staff in-room will be connected to the chatroom for meetings with chat facilities so that remote participants can identify problems they experience (for example, that audio volume is too low for certain speakers on audio streams).
It is worth noting that remote participation depends upon the Internet to work, in much the same way as the work of ICANN depends upon it day in and day out. If there is an Internet service outage at the venue, for example, that will mean an outage for all remote participants until connectivity is restored.
How Everyone Can Help
The best technical provisions can only get us so far. Remote participation requires those in the room to be a part of making remote participants’ contributions valuable:
- Leading or organising a session in Nairobi? Ensure you remember to include remote participants’ questions and comments on an equal basis to in-room participants
- Presenting at a session? Ensure your materials are sent to the Staff 48 hours in advance, so remote participants can retrieve them and so they are ready for presentation in the Adobe Connect ‘virtual meeting’.
- Attending sessions, either remotely or in person? Join the chatroom for all the sessions you attend – engage with the other attendees. If you are physically present, help bring the views of remote participants to the attention of those in the room, especially if that room doesn’t have a member of staff tasked with attending the chatroom to raise remote participants’ perspectives.
Resources and Links
We’ve put together a selection of resources related to remote participation, with more to come. Here’s a selection of URLs that should be useful
- Remote Participation Services Matrix: http://nbo.icann.org/remote-services-matrix
- Explanation of Remote Participation Services and Concepts: http://nbo.icann.org/remote-participation
- Feedback address for participants: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Remote Participation Summary in presentation format: Nairobi Remote Participation Summary
Stay tuned, there will be more details coming soon.