Mindreel is a database of over 100 films submitted the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival over the last six years. SMAFF is a world class festival and we at IRISS were really pleased work with SMAFF and the University of Strathclyde to create Mindreel, a resource of global educational value.
So why is the above message typical of what many people in the public sector see when they try to use Mindreel? The answer is really quite frustrating. This message indicates that this council’s filtering software by default blocks access to sites offering ‘streaming media’, usually video. In order to use public money wisely we use a streaming media service called Vimeo to host films on Mindreel. Why? Well, as mentioned before in this blog, streaming media is a very cost effective way of sharing video. For around £160 per year Vimeo will take care of all technical format issues – including the enormous task of testing playback on the increasing variety of mobile devices - to ensure that the videos will almost certainly play on any device. That is, unless the organisation has gone to the trouble of blocking access to streaming media.
In case the message is not clear let me repeat that it costs IRISS only £160 per year to provide access to more than 100 films of exceptional educational value. The cost of burning the films to DVD or renting a dedicated server and testing playback on the various mobile devices would far exceed this sum.
This ‘blocked access’ message is commonplace in local authorities, and indeed in government – despite Civil Service guidelines which encourage more liberal access to social media in the workplace :
Most staff can be trusted to use these technologies appropriately if they are aware of the constraints and the risks. And appropriate line management intervention may, in some cases, be a better solution than tighter technical controls that hinder business use.
( as quoted in a previous Just Do It! post)
The fact that the message advises the user to present ‘valid business reason’ may be of some comfort, but surely this just creates hassle and adds to administrative overhead costs?
As noted in previous blog post the Christie Commission urged public bodies to be more creative and forward looking in its use of ICT:
…the public sector, at all levels, can do more to transform how it procures, manages and uses digital technology to drive better public service delivery.
What this means in practice is that if third parties, such as IRISS, adopt cost effective technologies to deliver educational materials online, local authorities are swimming against the tide by routinely blocking access to such technologies.