Remote Council Meetings: Video conferencing and audio platforms

This guidance includes an A-Z of video conferencing and audio platforms.

The logos of all partner organisations

This is not an exhaustive list and inclusion does not mean endorsement. We recognise that one solution will not fit all and what will be suitable for one council will not necessarily work for another. We recommend that when introducing any new software or technologies it is done while bearing in mind guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre.

8x8

Installation requirements for 8x8 

  • Smartphone and internet to download the app for conference calling.   
  • Webcam if videoing.   
  • For the easiest way to video conference, you need to download an app to the laptop
  • Guide to 8x8

Available packages

  • Many packages available depending on what size business/ what is needed.
  • Free aspects: HD Video and Video Conferencing, with no meeting time limits   

Number of participants

50 participants

Pros

  • The free aspects of starting a conference call seems straightforward via the desktop app/ video meetings with Virtual Office/ email invitation.   
  • There are meeting controls, e.g. can share screen/ make people “raise their hand” to speak/ mute / can record the meeting/ and stream the meeting live on YouTube.   

Cons

  • Some users have had issues dialling into the 8x8 call  
  • If the live-streaming to Facebook was the most obvious route to open-up council meetings, most councils have a Facebook page so would be easier to do it directly
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions

  • Via mobile app you can read audio transcripts, and real-time audio subtitles
  • Dark screen mode 

Translation tools

Has automatic translation, via the chat function. Customers can send chats that are automatically translated into your agents’ own language, and vice versa.  

Security and transparency

Not specifically secure if the link/dial in details were shared externally – as anyone could use them to dial in. 

Councils using this platform

The LGA uses 8x8 for teleconferences.  

Suitable for council meetings

  • The quality of an 8x8 call has been questioned, long formal meetings with questionable sound quality would be difficult.  
  • Video conferencing could be suitable, as once the app is downloaded the route to join meetings is quite easy as you can link it to a calendar/ via a simple link.   
Adobe Connect

Installation requirements for Adobe Connect

  • Host needs an adobe account
  • Guests need URL and a device (laptop, tablet or phone with internet access and camera for video calls) 

Available packages

Number of participants

Up to 1,500 with the top package  

Pros

  • You can share uploaded files   
  • Create custom reports  
  • Chat facility to get text message feedback throughout a presentation (includes PMs)  
  • Polling tool  
  • Quick yes/no responses  
  • Hosts of meetings can vary rights of participants as they enter the room or at any time in the meeting so that microphone and/or webcam can be enabled.
  • “raise hand” tool   
  • whiteboard tool to draw or share ideas in visual form
  • option to share the desktop of a presenter
  • meetings can be recorded and streamed.

Cons

Polling option could be used to record votes.

The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Compliable with Section 508
  • Keyboard navigation to the menus as well as between windows
  • Can also use the admin controls via keyboard
  •  Can answer polls via keyboard
  •  Can change colour theme

Translation tools

Facilitates real-time word-by-word captioning as well as sentence-by-sentence translation.

Security and transparency

Adobe has extensive information on security, compliance, data protection etc. 

Councils using this platform

Suitable for council meetings

Potentially this could be suitable for council meetings as the host can vary the right of participants, including the public during the meeting.  

Bluejeans

Installation requirements for BlueJeans

Available packages

  • BlueJeans Standard - £9.92 per month 
  • BlueJeans Pro £12.6 per month  

Number of participants

  • Up to 50 participants
  • Up to 75 participants 

Pros

BlueJeans does a great job of handling active speakers and bringing their video to the forefront while they are speaking.  It has advanced features such as:  

  • meeting highlights  
  • action item tagging  
  • intelligent meeting recaps.  

Cons

  • There have been some complaints that BlueJeans is not as intuitive or simple as a rival such as Zoom.   
  • You have to download the app and cannot just view from the browser.  
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

BlueJeans accessibility features enable customers with disabilities such as visual and hearing impairment to schedule, attend and participate in a BlueJeans meetings, view recordings, and access administrative features from any computer or mobile device.  

Security and transparency

  • During the course of a meeting, the session may be locked down to only include those participants that are in attendance
  • There is an option that forces a BlueJeans meeting to only allow end points with sufficient encryption capabilities enabled  

Suitable for council meetings

It could work for councils the only issue would be cost and that other platforms seem to get better reviews, but this has some very strong features that would benefit councils that basic platforms do not have.  

Facetime

Installation requirements for Facetime

An Apple device (iPhone, iPad, iMac etc.)  

Available packages

Free for owners of an Apple product

Number of participants

Up to 32 people can Group FaceTime at once on the same call.  

Pros

The main benefits of Facetime are its video quality, its integration with Apple devices, and its ability to receive calls even if it is not running.  

Cons

  • An Apple-only video chat
  • If using an iPhone screen a conversation with quite a few participants will become difficult to see other users
  • Non-Apple product owners are unable to use Facetime.
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Apple is accessibility friendly. 
  • Voiceover describes everything on the screen/talks through tasks.
  • You can adjust the view and colours on screen, and there is a magnifier/upsize text option
  • Can use your voice to control the software via Siri or Voice Control 
  • Equally has Switch Control, where the products can link to joystick/other adaptive devices

Translation tools

No specific language translator tool, but the app can be integrated with other third-party speech apps.  

Security and transparency

The audio/video contents of Facetime calls are protected by end-to-end encryption, so no one but the sender and receiver can access them. Apple cannot decrypt the data. FaceTime uses Internet Connectivity Establishment (ICE) to establish a peer-to-peer connection between devices.  

Suitable for council meetings

  • Can be used for small council meetings, but not publicly accessible meetings as users have to be called to start the meeting.  
  • An issue about using this for formal council meetings is that not everyone owns/has access to an Apple product to run Facetime.  
Google Hangouts

Installation requirements for Google Hangouts

  • Go to hangouts.google.com and sign in with a Google account or make an account for free.   
  • Download the Google Hangouts Chrome extension also downloadable as an app.   
  • A device (laptop, tablet or phone with internet access and camera for video calls) is required

Available packages

  • Gmail: £0  
  • G Suite Basic: £4.14 per month 
  • G Suite Business: £8.28 per month  
  • G Suite Enterprise: £20 per month 

Number of participants

  • Gmail: 10 people
  • Up to 100 people
  • Up to 150 people  
  • Up to 250 people

Pros

  • Many people already have Gmail accounts
  • If users do not currently have an account, it is a free and quick process to do so 
  • When a link is set up for a video call any external invitee can use the link without needing to create their own Google account

Cons

  • It lacks advanced features like a waiting room for participants that join early. 
  • The platform seems to be utilised more often for its chat function rather than its video conferencing. This may be because it requires a stable and relatively high bandwidth. 
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Live captions
  • Screen readers and magnifiers
  • Keyboard shortcuts  
  • Hard-of-hearing and low-vision users can use spoken feedback and live caption  

Translation tools

Text is automatically translated in the chat messages by adding specific language bots to the group conversations.  

Security and transparency

Privacy and security concerns have been highlighted.  It does, however, encrypt hangout conversations. It doesn’t use end-to-end encryption; instead, messages are encrypted “in transit”. This means that they are only encrypted between your device and Google’s servers. Once they are on a server, Google has complete access to them. Images sent via Hangouts are shared through public URLs, meaning that anyone can view your private images that have been sent in a chat.  

Councils using this platform

Seems to be more commonly used by schools and colleges rather than councils maybe because it comes as part of many school’s IT suite for students.

Suitable for council meetings

Could be suitable for council meetings but it feels the main function of this platform is the chat section rather than video conferencing and therefore the functionality would need to be checked with the council’s bandwidth taken into account.  

Houseparty

Installation requirements 

  • Download the app, available from both the App Store and Google Play  
  • You can also use Houseparty on your computer by installing the Chrome Extension

Available packages

There are in app purchases available, but these are mainly for games. To use the app to have video calls with “friends” is free.  

Number of participants

Can chat with up to eight people in a ‘party’ at once.  

Pros

The app is free, easy-to-use and hugely popular with the younger generation. That's largely because it offers in-app games and quiz sessions.  

Cons

Houseparty has struggled with the surging demand, facing a number of outages while needing to temporarily remove features that have caused a slowdown.  This platform might not be ‘professional’ enough for a work/council environment.  

The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

No evidence the app itself is accessible, but if used via Apple/android devices you would be able to use those accessibility functions.  

Security and transparency

An issue with security could be that if a room is not ‘locked’ any friend of a participant can join the ‘party’. In certain instances such as a private conversation this would not be appropriate. However, there is an option to lock the room once all participants have joined to avoid unwanted users joining.  

Suitable for council meetings

  • Informal meetings between officers
  • Would not recommend for formal meetings  
Join Me

Installation requirements for Join Me

  • Laptop with mic/webcam
  • Internet
  • Download an app   
  • Smartphone needed for the phone app

Available packages

  • Lite: £9 per month  
  • Pro: £13 per month  
  • Business: £20 per month   

Number of participants

  • Five participants per meeting 
  • 250 participants per meeting

Pros

  • The app comes across as quite simple and intuitive   
  • Google Chrome users can join a video call without any downloads

Cons

  • The only way to pass the presenter role is for all parties to have the join.me app downloaded.  
  • It doesn't have the integration with Outlook that other apps have.  
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

Not published on their website.  

Security and transparency

While the current acceptable standard is 128-bit TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption for sending and receiving sensitive information, join.me enhances your data protection with 256-bit TLS encryption, treating your data as securely as your bank account.  

Suitable for council meetings

It could be a good option, but it is more towards the expensive side and as it is not widely used then when calling people outside of the council organisation/members of the public for council meetings it may be less simple.

Lifesize

Installation requirements for Lifesize

Lifesize installation instructions (pdf)

Available packages

  • Requires a client to install. Unable to join the call by simply accessing a web browser
  • Option to purchase a package with hardware which will be posted to users. There is also the software-only version.   

Number of participants

  • Free features for first six months – hosts up to 25 participants.   
  • £16.95 per month standard (for small teams) – host up to 100 participants.  
  • £14.95 per mont plus – host up to 300 participants.  
  • Find out more about Lifesize pricing

Pros

  • Independently reviewed to have a number of strengths including video and sound quality 
  • Allows for third party users to join by simply dialling or clicking on a link

Cons

  • Difficulties have been reported when participants have been sharing their screens  
  • Does require users to download software, there is not an option to use the technology in their web browser
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

No evidence of this online.

Translation tools

Has an add on “KUDO” that enables team members to communicate in multiple languages through live and simultaneous translation, even real-time sign language interpretation.  

Security and transparency

Reviews said there were no complaints about the security features

Every Lifesize call and every recording is encrypted by default to the highest standards  

Suitable for council meetings

Could work for councils only issue would be the pricing and making them publicly accessible.

Microsoft Teams

Installation requirements for Microsoft Teams

  • A device (laptop, tablet or phone with internet access and camera for video calls)
  • Microsoft 365 account

Available packages

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic - £3.80 per month
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard - £9.40   (New package names as of 21 April 2020)  

Number of participants

The maximum at the moment is 250 of people in one Teams meeting. This goes regardless of application (web or desktop) or whether the attendees are guests or users.

Live Events: 10,000 attendees

Pros

  • Teams increases productivity by making all your collaboration– conversations, chats, online meetings, shared files, tasks, etc. available in one single app and one single interface
  • Integrates with Outlook
  • Screen sharing available within the app
  • Live events would enable councils to present audio, video or a screen to a live event, with a Q&A function. These can be private or public. If public, residents could watch the event live or on-demand, either anonymously or authenticated.

Cons

  • Does not allow external users to call into a meeting via phone with base version
  • Requires a strong and stable internet connection
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Blur background   
  • Customize the reading and viewing experience for different visual and cognitive needs
  • Have documents read aloud and broken down by syllables with Immersive Reader  
  • Dark, light and high contrast themes
  • Compatible with assistive technologies

Translation tools

Has an inline message translation feature, that enables users translate Teams messages into the language specified by their personal language settings for Office 365.  

Security and transparency

Teams enforces team-wide and organisation-wide two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest.  

Councils using this platform

Suitable for council meetings

  • Could be suitable for council meetings  
  • Some users have said they have found the functionality complex at times so users may need to watch a tutorial/explainer
  • There are plenty of virtual/video tutorials available
  • Live events function would be suitable for public council meetings.
PowWowNow

Installation requirements for PowWowNow

  • A device (laptop, tablet or phone with internet access and camera for video calls)  
  • A powwownow account  
  • Screensharing requires a plug-in, best browser is chrome   

Available packages

  • Conference calls are free, video and webinar options from £10 a month per user plus call charges.  
  • Options are: Pro, Pro International, and Enterprise. Each includes the core web meeting features - video, screen share, chat and more – with access to geographic international dial-in numbers and Account Management for bespoke plans. 

Number of participants

  • Pro and Pro International plans enable up to 50 people to use the Web Meeting room features, with up to 15 people who can join using their computer's audio and use video 
  • An unlimited number of Guests can use their phone to connect to audio
  • The webinar facility allows up to 2,000 participants 

Pros

  • Offers conference call, video call and webinar options  
  • Unlimited number of dial-ins by phone  
  • Webinar option includes Q&A/chat function  

Cons

  • Works best in chrome; some councils do not allow access to this
  • No hands up to speak or voting option 
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

No information openly available

Translation tools

You can change various call settings, including announcements and the voice prompt language via personal settings. There doesn’t seem to be any information about message translation etc specifically.  

Security and transparency

  • Log-in required
  • You can see who people are by using the Guest List and can stop new people from joining the meeting by Locking the room
  • PowWowNow uses a third party software system called Drum to run their web meeting product. Screen data is sent to the Drum servers so that it can be sent to viewers. All data is kept in memory and is never stored to disk. The data is cleared from memory when you end your screen share or after two minutes if your screen share is not ended cleanly.  

Councils using this platform

Has been used by the LGA in the past for teleconferencing. No sign online of councils using it.  

Suitable for council meetings

Could be suitable for some committee meetings, particularly where live public participation is not an issue.

Public-i

Public-i

Installation requirements for Public-i

  • Participants join using a web browser
  • Chrome currently offers the best user experience, although other browsers are supported).

Available packages

  • Not a free package
  • Public-i offer discounts for multi-year contracts.

Number of participants

Platform is specifically designed for councils meetings so as many as required.

Pros

  • Designed to meet the needs of a formal council meeting
  • Integrates directly with Connect (public-i’s webcasting platform)
  • Meets ADSO guidelines
  • Provides tools for the moderator to manage people wanting to speak
  • Working on functionality to allow participants to vote.

Cons

  • Not a free facility
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Translation and accessibility tools

Includes subtitles and transcript functionality

Security and transparency

Check with the provider

Councils using this platform

Public-i currently provides web casting fo hundreds of councils in the UK

Suitable for council meetings

The platform has been specifically designed to meet the needs of formal council meetings and works alongside other platforms such as modern.gov

Skype for Business

Installation requirements for Skype for Business

  • A device (laptop, tablet or phone with internet access and camera for video calls)  
  • Skype for business account  

Available packages

  • Monthly subscription included with some office 365 packages. 
  • Cost for organisations that do not have the relevant Office 365 subscription is £2 per month per user

Number of participants

Up to 250 participants

Pros

  • Share photos, videos, and other files up to 300 MB by simply dragging and dropping files into your conversation window
  • Integrates with Outlook
  • Works on most devices, laptop, phone, tablet etc  
  • Screen sharing for presentations
  • Meetings can also be recorded for use later on 
  • Is a well known/popular video-chat platform

Cons

  • No voting or hands up to speak function  
  • Is a network-intensive program requiring a strong network and internet connection  
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Works with a screen reader 
  • You can use keyboard shortcuts to navigate throughout the software
  • Can change IM text size
  • Can turn on teletype mode
  • Can adjust screen reader volume when a user initiates/receives a call 

Translation tools

You can enable a Translated Conversation on one-to-one calls, where instant messages and calls will be translated to the users’ chosen language. You can see both the translated messages and the original message if required. Not available in group chats or calls.  

Security and transparency

Good; end to end encryption.

Councils using this platform

Suitable for council meetings

  • Could be suitable for some council meetings, particularly where live public participation is not an issue.  
  • The cap of the number of participants may make it unsuitable for full council meetings at larger authorities.  
Slido

Installation requirements for Slido

  • To be used in conjunction with another video conference platform
  • Need laptop, internet, mic and a webcam
  • Need to already be confident with another video platform/have whatever software you want to share downloaded
  • Need a smartphone for an app to use as the “switcher” or remote

Available packages

  • Basic - £0: crowdsource questions, three polls per event, brainstorm ideas, and analytics about the event.   
  • Internal -  £500 per annum: moderation of questions, five polls per event, export data  
  • Corporate -  £750 per annum: unlimited polls, can moderate everything, can include surveys, can use custom theme etc.

Number of participants

1,000 per event

Pros

  • Engagement is more straightforward re: Slido Q&As/ polls for voting/ easy to share and discuss documents as could link questions to this
  • Allows anonymity which may encourage more people to be involved in the Q&A, but this is also a big con as could lead to spamming

Cons

  • Need to have tech-confident users, to be able to use the software efficiently   
  • Users also need to be slightly tech-savvy, to follow the QR code or URL instructions
  • Cannot moderate questions in the free version and can only have three polls per event/ one brainstorm topic per event, so slightly limited use
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Doesn’t have official certification – but you can use Slido with screen readers (on Apple products or Google Chrome)
  • There are some functionalities of Slido that you can use via keyboard only  

Translation tools

 

Security and transparency

The security risks would be linked to the video conferencing app, and the user capability. for example, if a councillor didn’t quite understand the implications of screen sharing etc.

Suitable for council meetings

  • Suitable in that the general functionalities would be very useful e.g. polls and brainstorming over a public discussion etc.     
  • The tech-savviness may not be suitable for all users, as there are a lot of components needed.  The basic version you are unable to moderate comments, so would still have the issue of spam if it was a public meeting.   
WebEx Meetings

Installation requirements for Webex Meetings

  • Host or join a meeting online from any device, including mobile, tablet, laptop, or video device. 
  • Host needs a Webex account  

Available packages

  • They provide webcasting, webinars, online training, online team work.  
  • The cost of these packages vary  
  • The business subscription at £25 per host per month allows up to 200 participants  

Number of participants

Varies according to the platform and package but could potentially be very high:  

  • Webcasting: up to 100,000 people  
  • Webinars: up to 3,000 people  
  • Online learning: Up to 1,000 people  

Pros

  • View a list of participants, and message with them privately or publicly during the meeting.  
  • Call me feature means you can get a call to join the meeting.  
  • Quickly record your meeting online with automatic transcriptions built-in. An email will be sent with an MP4 file of the recording. 
  • Easily share your screen or content, like applications or files. Whiteboard.
  • Large number of participants permitted.  
  • Cisco Webex supports Outlook, Office 365, Google, and more.  
  • Launch video meetings from Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and popular learning management systems like Canvas and Moodle.

Cons

There does not seem to be a voting or hands up to speak option

The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Not 100 per cent accessibility friendly
  • Aspects of the software work with screen reader
  • Tab key navigation only works with some panels, not all. 
  • Doesn’t work for Linux users

Translation tools

Has a translation BOT that auto-detects the input language and responds with translated text in the chosen language. This is using an integration with “Translate by Zapier.” 

Security and transparency

  • Not much information on the standard pages, may be more in the IT admin info (Cisco system so likely to be fairly secure?) 
  • Pin required 

Councils using this platform

Could not find any using it currently, apart from one parish council. The parish council meets virtually on 1 April, members of the public can listen in.

Suitable for council meetings

  • Could potentially work for some council meetings
  • Live public participation may be an issue and voting/indicating to speak would need to be considered.
WhatsApp

Installation requirements 

  • Download the app which is available from the App Store and Google Play
  • Desktop functionality also possible by downloading WhatsApp to the computer and scanning the QR code from the phone you wish to connect 

Available packages

Free to download

Number of participants

The app allows people to video chat with up to 16 people, as well as group calls with up to 32 people.  

Pros

  • Many people already have WhatsApp and are comfortable with its interface and functionality
  • The app connects to video calling even during low-speed bandwidth connection

Cons

You cannot video call on WhatsApp web and must instead always use your mobile device. This may be uncomfortable for some users.   

Accessibility functions 

WhatsApp is accessible and works with Talkback and Voice Over.  

Translation tools

Not specifically mentioned on the website. However, with certain devices, WhatsApp can be translated ie the Google “Tap to Translate” app can be used on WhatsApp.  

Security and transparency

WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.  

Suitable for council meetings

The limited number of people allowed on video chat would probably only make this platform appropriate for small team meetings as opposed to for a full council meeting.  

Zoom

Installation requirements for Zoom

Go to Zoom.us, and sign up for free via work email (log in takes a captcha). Then have to click the confirmation email to begin to use Zoom.   
So:
a) need a laptop/computer with a microphone and webcam   
b) need internet   
c) need an email address both to sign up and to activate the account.

Available packages

  • Basic - Free 40 mins limit on group meetings, unlimited 1-1 meetings
  • Pro - £11.99 per month, meeting duration 24hrs/ user management/ admin feature controls etc  
  • Business - £15.99 per month, phone support/admin dash board. Managed domains/ company branding  

Number of participants

  • Basic and Pro packages: 100 participants  
  • Business: 300 participants  
  • Enterprise: 500 participants 

Pros

  • Simple set up, has online video “how to” tutorials for free
  • The bigger packages include a dedicated customer success manager so would take the IT stress away from council officers
  • Just need a meeting ID to join the call
  • Offers “video webinar” that supports observers, ie the public for public meetings
  • Particularly popular during the COVID-19 outbreak 

Cons

  • Most of the cons concern security and transparency
  • Concerns around the public nature of people adding comments into a Zoom meeting i.e. inappropriate images/comment
  • The common law powers of the Chair, usually reflected in standing orders, to deal with disruptive behaviour applies to a virtual meeting as to a real one, including the power to exclude disruptive individuals and even the public generally if the disruption prevents the committee from discharging its statutory functions. Technical advice should be sought as to how to do this virtually and the powers should of course be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner

Accessibility functions 

  • Has closed captioning, as Zoom integrates with third party closed captioning providers 
  • Has automatic transcripts – helpful for democratic service officers. Has keyboard accessibility, as Zoom supports keyboard shortcuts 
  • You can use Zoom without a screen, as it works with the latest screen readers  

Translation tools

Has the ability to add an “interpreter” to the meeting, where a zoom user becomes the interpreter, and attendees can select which audio channel they prefer (either the original audio or the interpreter). No details about translating messages/text.  

Security and transparency

Zoom did have some issues with security in the past e.g. hackers in meetings/ spoof messages/ hijack shared screens.  Also, the issue of “zoombombing” such as uninvited guests joining a public call and screen-sharing disturbing imagery.   Can disable file transfer to prevent malware being shared.

Councils using this platform

The UK Cabinet has held meetings via Zoom – with the Prime Minister tweeting an image of the virtual Cabinet meeting.

Suitable for council meetings

Council would have to do a few tests before making a meeting public. However, the issue is with a public meeting, anyone could spam the comments.  Suitable for internal council meetings for all ages as the set-up is quite simple for those less tech-confident. 

Zoom can be streamed live to YouTube or Facebook, meaning you can have a closed meeting for participants which is open for the public.

Links to platforms

Overview of video conferencing platforms (Excel)

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