On Tuesday, just as Steve Ballmer launched a $10million+ USAFacts.org website dedicated to increasing government transparency, Colorado saw its own nonprofit transparency website launch with ompnetwork.org
The Open Media Project is a new service designed to help small governments use the latest video streaming and archiving technologies to meet voters where they’re at, and to help constituents easily engage with their government. A project of Denver-based nonprofit, Open Media Foundation, the project grew out of coloradochannel.net, a site OMF built for the Colorado Legislature to stream and archive every session of the Colorado House and Senate.
“It’s an incredible resource for the people of Colorado, lowering the bar for civic engagement and enabling every resident of the state to be informed and engaged in the issues they care about,” said Andrew Romanoff, who planted the seeds for the project with the Open Media Foundation ten years ago as Speaker of the Colorado State House of Representatives. Now, as the CEO of a Colorado-based nonprofit and advocacy organization, Romanoff uses the tools to stay abreast of debate around mental health legislation at the capitol.
“As technology advances, this level of transparency is accessible even to the smallest governments in Colorado,” said Brian Hiatt, lead developer on the Open Media Project. The software was demonstrated today at the Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority “Enabling Digital Transformation” conference. The new software, available at ompnetwork.org, integrates with YouTube’s free streaming and automated transcription service to provide fully-searchable archives. The service is free of charge for governments serving populations of 5,000 or fewer. Governments serving larger populations pay (on average) 50% to 90% less than comparable for-profit solutions. “Local government is where the public has the greatest opportunity to make an impact, and also where decisions are made that most impact their lives. Yet citizens report a lack of media coverage and exposure to local government that leaves them uninformed and disengaged,” said Brian Hiatt. “With searchable access to video of government meetings and email/text notifications for topics of interest, government can finally be accessible to the public without a trip to City Hall. This is a tool journalists and advocacy groups have been asking for, ” added Hiatt.
A dozen state and local governments have been beta-testing the software for the past year, with many more looking to join in 2017. “The Program has been such a time-saver for us in the long-run,” said Pam Schilling, Town Clerk of Basalt (population 3,857), who has been using the older version of the software for over a year. “I love the convenience of being able to go back and listen to a specific part of the meeting and be able to get the answers I need immediately,” added Charlotte Anderson of Pitkin County (population 17,379) another Colorado government using the tools.
Up next for the project: OMF will be presenting their new software at the National Association of Broadcasters Conference next week on April 24 from 1 to 1:45 pm in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Room N255.