On Monday 23 March, the 53 Ghent councillors followed the council meeting online on their home computer, in compliance with the coronavirus measures. It was the largest digital council meeting ever held in Flanders. The city now wants to share its knowhow with other municipalities.
Organising a digital council meeting is no easy task. On the one hand, all participants need to have operational equipment. Some councillors have a laptop at home, others have a PC or tablet. Ghent’s technicians made sure that all 53 devices could take part in a teleconference.
On the other hand, all legal requirements must be fulfilled. The city administration had to look into the legislation to determine what was and what was not allowed. In addition, numerous other minor arrangements were made.
Ghent drew up a guide with all rules and instructions, both in practical terms and in terms of content. Ringing phones or barking dogs are examples of unacceptable interferences. Even drinking a glass of water behind your computer produces a lot of annoying noises during a teleconference if your microphone is on.
All arrangements have been compiled in a document which can be shared with other municipalities that are interested.
The first digital council meeting was a great success. The city will now examine whether it can develop it further. This time, there was little room for debate and discussion and the councillors used a reduced the agenda. Perhaps there will be more opportunities next time.