Lake Cowichan’s Town Council has recently received a technological facelift in the form of five new Apple iPad 2s.
The iPads were purchased to save time and curb the costs of printing and paper costs at the Town Office.
Similar to a laptop computer, the device is a touchscreen unit and runs on an Apple operating system.
Web, email, video, music and social media — if a computer can do it, the iPad more than likely can, too. Town Council will use the iPad to view meeting agendas and other documents such as press releases or grant application forms, as well as access email on the go. The iPad also functions as a day planner, among other things.
Mayor Ross Forrest said that he and Town Council have been praising their iPads since receiving them in the first week in January.
“They’re just so much more efficient,” said Forrest.
Forrest, along with councillors Bob Day, Jayne Ingram, Tim McGonigle and Franklin Hornbrook are the recipients of the iPads.
Forrest is confident that the iPad 2s have helped him hone his organizational skills in the office.
“I don’t have to look through past agendas that are stacks of paper eight inches thick. It’s just simpler and it’s quicker,” said Forrest.
Council purchased five iPads at roughly $500 each. The Town’s director finance Ronni Gill estimates that the iPads will pay for themselves within three to four years from now. Gill estimated that the Town goes through between 15,000 and 20,000 sheets of paper on an annual basis. At this rate, paper costs the town approximately $300 each year.
The Town now distributes its agendas for weekly meetings through email, which the mayor and councillors are able to download on their iPads.
“Some agendas are 100 pages and some are only five pages so it’s hard to tell how much exactly they will save but they will pay for themselves. You can’t put a money value on time,” the mayor added.
Councillor Ingram agreed that something needed to be done to done to make the paperwork process of meetings more efficient.
“Sometimes we have agendas and they’re 100 pages long and you multiply that by all of us having to have printed hard copies. Before we had them we were also taking notes and we were using paper to do that and now everything is contained in one technological unit. I think it’s the way to go,” said Ingram.
Ingram, who admitted that becoming acquainted with her iPad was a bit of an adjustment, also touted the device as a solution to making Lake Cowichan’s Town Office a greener place.
“Using the iPad is less paperwork, less photocopying and less everything. It is way greener as far as I’m concerned,” Ingram explained.
The iPads will also cut down paper and time in other tasks around Town Office, too.
“It cuts staff time by having to photocopy them and putting them in plastic binders and handing them out to us. It’s cutting time everywhere for all of us,” added Ingram.
When Forrest isn’t tending to his mayoral duties, he’s working part-time in Chemainus. The iPad keeps him connected to Town Office when he’s away from Lake Cowichan.
“We all have other jobs and we really don’t have a lot of extra time,” said Forrest.
Forrest thinks adjusting to the times and applying technology to local politics is key.
“You have to stay current. Things happen so quick now even with email you get one for a grant that’s coming out and you only have some much time to prepare these things so you have to be on top of these things all the time.”
Lake Cowichan Councillor Day is also pleased with efficiency of his new iPad 2.
“During meetings we’re constantly flipping pages for agendas and we spend so much time shuffling papers looking for things. With the iPad, everything is instantly at your fingertips,” he said.
Making the digital transition has been easy for Day.
“I don’t even need a filing cabinet anymore because I can just touch the email or agenda and file it in the appropriate location in the iPad and it’s saved. I’ve never lost anything on my computer or my iPad.”
In today’s increasingly technologized society, Day thinks the move was smart.
“We get information all the time.”
Day estimated he receives 20 to 30 emails each day and said that the iPads have made him more productive.
“No matter where I am, if I have a spare moment I can read the emails and process the information in my head then. I’ve got to have a daytime job, too. If at the end of the day I was expected to go home and digest 30 emails before bed and then pay attention to family, it’s impossible.”
Day, a former Microsoft Windows user, is glad he made the switch to Apple.
“I’m going to liken it between driving a Hyundai and a Porsche,” he said. “With the PC you have to think three or four steps to get the job done. With the Mac or the iPad, it’s one step. It doesn’t get much simpler. If you have a thought, you put your finger on it and it happens,” said Day.
iPads are beginning to be used by all levels throughout the country. Cowichan Valley is no different. Forrest said that North Cowichan’s municipal government and the Cowichan Valley Regional District employees have also adopted the iPad.
“I think we’re setting a really good example,” said Forrest.
Lake Cowichan resident Erwin Wolff likes the idea of local government using technology like the iPad.
“I’m firmly in support of it,” said Wolff.
Wolff is no stranger to such technology in the workplace. In his former occupation as a miner in British Columbia’s interior, he along with his crew received Palm Pilot tablets in the 1990s. Wolff said that the devices were organizational godsends.
“It makes the individual’s job a lot easier. They can share information a lot easier amongst council members and administration. It has my support. It will make them a lot more productive,” added Wolff.
Although the iPad 2s are currently all the rage, Apple will soon have an iPad 3 on the market. Apple has not yet confirmed a release date.