Issuing iPads loaded with a special app instead of binders at General Synod next month promises not only to save trees, but keep members connected in new ways as well, organizers say.
“I think it really is about being able to get-up-to-date and accurate information to all of the members immediately, the ability to personalize the app so that when a delegate looks at their device they’ll actually see their agenda, not a generic agenda,” says national office web manager Brian Bukowski. The app will also have other features such as social media-style messaging and sharing of photos, he says.
“There should be a whole lot fewer blue boxes for recycling; members will carry one small tablet instead of overwhelming binders and piles of paper,” adds Dean Peter Wall, chair of the General Synod planning committee. “The carbon footprint, even with the power used for tablets, charging, etc., should be markedly reduced.”
Council of General Synod this March approved replacing the three-ring binders traditionally used at General Synod with rented tablets equipped with the app. Tablets have already been used instead of paper at the 2015 General Convention of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Meeting this January and April’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The move will save money in some areas, but mean extra expenses in others, for a net cost estimated at $12,000.
The app is now available for download on the Anglican Church of Canada website. It exists in two versions-a sign-in version customized for individual General Synod members and a generic version for the general public. The app can be loaded not only onto tablets but smartphones and computers as well, so that members can already start using it to prepare for General Synod. About a quarter of General Synod members have already logged in and created profiles for themselves on the app, Bukowski says. Profiles can include photos and other information, plus links to their Facebook and other social media pages.
The app includes all the information members are expected to need, including travel information, the agenda, reports, resolutions, handbook, nomination forms and everything else previously found in the binder-but in a form that’s customized for each member. Each member’s agenda, for example, will include the meetings he or she is to attend, locating each one in a built-in map of the hotel, and the app will be updated to reflect voting as it happens.
“The changing ongoing business of synod can be accessed by all on their tablets as it happens,” says Wall.
In the event of an Internet outage-highly unlikely, Bukowski says, because of the reliable infrastructure in place at the hotel hosting the event-the work of General Synod should not be seriously affected because all the information members need will be stored on the iPads, and can be easily printed if necessary.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting talking to the members before and afterwards” about their experience with the app, Bukowski says. “I hope they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
You can watch Bukowski speak in more detail about the app on the Anglican Church of Canada website.