The Promise and Potential of Streaming Media Technology

The Promise and Potential of Streaming Media Technology

Mindy Anneli Lassila
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-671-6.ch007
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Information is a valuable commodity, but only if it is shared. Through diversified technologies, the dissemination of information has been made possible for a number of government organizations around the world, but for some, developing efficient and effective e-government systems poses a variety of unique challenges. Key demographic and economic variables, such as income, education, language, human resources and lack of appropriate products and robust regulatory frameworks for information and communication technologies (ICTs) drive the policy questions surrounding electronic commerce in government operations. These variables are important because they are the most likely to have a differential impact on the consequences of delivering new and progressive ICTs to various segments in developing countries. Described and discussed are the advantages and limitations of streaming media technology, a form of new ICT, and the comparative benefits it has in both developing and developed countries. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) serves as a point of reference, as for the role and impact ICT-specifically streaming media–can play-within a government sector. With limited resources,INAC, a Canadian federal government department, has improved access to information and enhanced communication by successfully executing streaming media technology in-house. The implementation of streaming media technology at INAC has resulted in a fundamental transformation in the nature of information and communication exchange within the organization.
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Governments throughout the world are taking on new roles and responsibilities. With increasingly challenging mandates, governments at all levels require better access to information and the ability to disseminate their decisions and policies to citizens.

The potential of e-government as a development tool hinges upon three prerequisites - a minimum threshold level of technological infrastructure, human capital and e-connectivity - for all. E-government readiness strategies and programmes will be able to be effective and “include all” people only if, at the very minimum, all have functional literacy and education, which includes knowledge of computer and Internet use; all are connected to a computer; and all have access to the Internet. The primary challenge of e-government for development therefore, is how to accomplish this. (UN World Public Sector Report 2003: E-Government at the Crossroads, 2003).

Electronic government is considered as one of the critical components of helping government to achieve these goals. However, effective e-government requires a vision, a plan and a strategy, developed with the full understanding of resource availability and the level of human and physical infrastructure on the ground (United Nations, 2005). Approaches to e-government vary from region to region around the world, with countries at different stages in the process. Vietnam, for example, has gained a big leap in developing e-government. According to a research group of US-based Brown University, the country has made outstanding progress in applying information technology at government agencies to offer government services to citizens, with its ranking going from 126th in 2006 to 90th in 2007 (Tuoi Tre Online, 2007).

The Canadian government strives to be accessible and scores highly internationally in its approach to e-government. Much of this has been made possible by developments in ICT, such as the Internet and mobile devices. ICTs open up vast possibilities for improving dialogue between government authorities and the populations they serve. As a result of the collective efforts of dozens of government departments and agencies in Canada, 130 of the most commonly used Canadian federal government services are online and can be accessed through the federal portal. With almost 600 million interactions between citizens and the federal government in 2004 – compared to 150 million in 2001 – e-government is now a key channel for the delivery of public services in Canada and represents almost a third of the total number of transactions (Petrov, 2005).

Indeed, the introduction of streaming media technology was expected to do no less than virtually transform the information society at INAC. The ability to access points of interest by way of audio and/or video over the Internet and/or Intranet in real-time (live webcast) or pre-recorded content (on-demand webcast) was an exciting communications distribution method for the department to undertake. What used to be a “nice to have” technology when it was initially implemented has evolved to become a delivery mechanism INAC often relies on to interact with clients both internally and externally (i.e., INAC employees, other government departments, Aboriginals, academics, historians, journalists, teachers, students, children, etc.). Important messages, seminars, panel discussions, conferences and online learning tutorials are a few of the more popular events/initiatives which are webcast. However, it’s not enough to simply deploy streaming media hardware applications within the organization – in order to ensure quality delivery and a scalable solution that will support future growth, proper testing and infrastructure assessment strategies are essential (Rayburn, 2005). The process of implementing this type of technology also involves improving co-ordination and collaboration, clarifying roles and responsibilities and ensuring that the necessary skills and tools are available. Finally, streaming media services should be evaluated regularly over time using both a technological and value added approach.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Buffering: Commonly refers to a streaming media player when saving portions of a streaming media file to local storage for playback. Most streaming media players buffer a small fraction of a streaming media presentation before beginning to play it. Buffering also may occur in the middle of a presentation, when available bandwidth does not match the presentation’s target bandwidth

Media Player: Is the software on the client computer that decompresses the streaming video or audio using a codec and plays it back on the computer screen.

IP: Internet Protocol. IP specifies the format of packets, also called datagrams, and the addressing schemes. IP is something like a postal system. It allows the sender to address a package and drop it in the system, but there’s no direct link between the sender and the recipient

Buffer: Space allocated on a system’s Random Access Memory (RAM) where data is stored temporarily until it is transferred to another part of the system. In streaming applications, buffers store video and/or audio data until there is enough information for the stream to be properly displayed

Encoding: A technical term used to describe the compression of media files into specific formats (i.e. Real Media, Quicktime, Windows Media, Flash, etc.)

Encoder: A software application or a device (hardware) used to encode – that is, compress and format digital audio and or/ video

Bandwidth: Referred to as data transfer rate or the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period. Bandwidth is usually measured in kilobits per second or megabits per second.

Streaming Media: The process of sending an encoded media stream (audio, video, graphics, text, etc.) to a remote audience via a local area network, wide area network or the World Wide Web. The file is usually transferred as a stream (constant flow of data) and the remote site can begin to view it before all the data has been completely received

Webcast: The transmission of audio and/or video content (text and graphics can be included within the file as well) to Internet/Intranet users based on individual requirements. Webcasting is often referred to as broadcasting over the Internet.

ICT: Information and Communications Technology, is the study or business of developing and using technology to process information and aid communications

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