Last updated: 26.07.13

Councils benefiting from video-calling local people

Technology is enabling local authorities to connect and develop stronger relationships with each other, according to one Stockton Council member.

David Harrington, the cabinet member for corporate management and finance at the body, wrote in a post for the Guardian that social media is helping councillors to create networks and work better together, while it also allows them to keep up to date with changes to the way people communicate.

He claimed that Skype has become a key part of his role, with meetings with residents regularly being held over the video-calling platform.

This means he is able to contact people he would not ordinarily engage with, while his job also becomes more interesting.

Mr Harrington remarked: "There is also an opportunity to present a more rounded picture of yourself - your personality, your interests and what you're passionate about - while learning more about the community you serve."

The council worker called for other people to learn from him and begin using Skype to build new connections - and he also provided some tips for companies thinking about setting up an online ward surgery.

These included getting comfortable with the technology being used and practising with friends and family, while he further recommended publicising Skype meetings and organising a specific time slot for them.

"A Skype ward surgery is no different to a traditional one. It's likely to generate further work, which needs to be programmed into your work schedule," Mr Harrington advised.

Companies looking to expand their services online and interact with workers and customers via the internet could turn to online training provider Virtual College for assistance.

The institution's e-portfolio allows assessors of qualifications to use video-calling to keep in touch with learners, which means they do not have to waste time driving from place to place to deliver feedback.

It also allows students and employees to access online resources from wherever they are and at any time, a much more flexible way of communicating and working.