The Oregon Legislature has beefed up its video streaming access by implementing technology that delivers the real-time video to mobile devices.

Since 2007, live video streaming of hearings and sessions from the state Capitol had been previously available on the Legislature’s website, but wasn’t accessible on smartphone and tablets.

“We had a need to provide citizens, legislative members and staff access to hearings and sessions on mobile devices and our current encoders didn’t provide the format needed to extend that video to mobile devices,” said the Legislature’s CIO Shancy Saban.

Funding for the project came from a profession not always in lockstep with transparency: lobbyists.

The Capitol Club — an Oregon association of more than 400 lobbyists, but not a lobbyist group itself —  drove efforts to make the video streams available on mobile devices and provided the funds of the implementation. A few of the members said they wanted access to the streams on their mobile devices, said Capitol Club President Annette Price.

“We’re like walking mobile offices, and we’re looking to find better ways to have access to the legislative process,” she said.

Price approached Saban in March with the idea and later made arrangements with vendor Discover Video to implement the technology. The Capitol Club agreed up front to cover the costs — about a couple thousand dollars — because the state is under tight budget constraints, Price said.

“The state budget in Oregon is not good, so this is one of those things that isn’t necessarily going to be at the top of the list [to implement],” Price said.

The Legislature started streaming the real-time video to mobile devices in April. This year’s legislative session will conclude at the end of June. The streaming will start again when next year’s session starts in February 2012, Saban said. 

The Legislature’s website provides up to 13 simultaneous streams in Windows Media format. Generally this format is viewable on PCs or Macs, but not typically on mobile devices, said Mike Savic, Discover Video’s vice president of business development.

With the use of a transcoder, the live streams are converted to a different format in real time so they’re accessible on mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Androids.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.