Digitizing International Conferences for reaching out to more communities in the world: our challenges on UNFCCC's COP3 and COP4

Suguru Yamaguchi and Mitsuhiko Okamochi
Cyber Kansai Project, JAPAN

Table of Contents


The "digitizing the conference" is a new form of supporting the international conference to reach out more communities in the world. The live video/audio broadcasting of conference sessions and archive services for both video/audio and documents are essential parts for realizing this concept. The Cyber Kansai Project was involved to UNFCCC's COP3 and COP4 conferences in order to implement the system based on this concept and to confirm its usability and universality of the services. Through our challenges in COP3 and COP4, we can conclude that the supporting the international conference with the "digitizing the conference" services is great help to the people who are involved to the conference as well as the public who has any interests on it. Furthermore, since this service is not filtered service, users can access full information, therefore, the service allows people to feel if they are physically attending the conference. In this paper, we show the concept of "digitizing the conference" approach and its design and implementation as our services for both in COP3 and COP4. Moreover, our analysis on tis social and technical impacts of our services are reported.

1. Introduction

The Internet has become a global digital information infrastructure covering all over the world. Various kinds of human activities, such as communicating, merchandising, commuting, education and publishing, are being changed dramatically by utilizing the Internet. In other words, the Internet are making big impacts on our social systems.

The most significant impact we consider is that the Internet enables us to have a handy channel for disseminating information directly to the world. Before the Internet was emerged, there was no way for both individuals and organizations to distribute information in inexpensive manner. But since the Internet has been spread out to the world, World Wide Web (WWW) and other digital information services available on the Internet allow us to circulate information easily around the world. Information publishing on the Internet has its unique characteristics. It is inexpensive in contrast to the existing methods. Since all the information are in digital, they can be updated easily. Furthermore, information can be provided directly to the people who need it, without any modifications and filtering. As the result, many organizations as well as individuals are now providing WWW home pages, digital archives, and information repositories in the Internet. Moreover, these information services are now widely used for business, hobbies, and daily life of the people.

This paper is aiming to show our challenges to improve the public awareness on topics discussed in international conferences through using the Internet. Since nations and economies in the world have interrelationship in various areas, many international conferences as the place for discussions and negotiation processes are held for widely distributed topics such as national and global security issues, intellectual properties, standards, issues of refugees, agricultural and industrial trading negotiations, etc. By their nature, the most of these are deeply related to our life. However, only selected delegates from selected countries can be directly and fully involved to these activities, while the public is almost isolated from the actual negotiation processes and/or discussions held in these international conferences. Only the way for the public to know about what is going on in these conferences is to obtain the information provided by the mass media such as TV and radio broadcastings, magazines, and newspapers. Unfortunately, the information provided by such old media is always summarized and focused on media's interest so that it's hard for the public to have both holistic and in-depth views on the topics discussed in the international conferences. It is likely that this situation may lead the public to have the apathy on these activities. It is obvious that this situation should be changed. There are several activities for this purpose. For example, several NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) voluntarily undertake a responsibility to monitor and report activities in some areas. Many international organizations such as subsidiary bodies of United Nations are now publishing their annual activity reports and distribute them freely for the public. Our group, Cyber Kansai Project, has been trying to show another practical way to achieve more public awareness for the international conferences using the Internet technologies. The way we did is "digitizing the conference."

1.1. Cyber Kansai Project

The Cyber Kansai Project [1] is a research consortium established in Japan, 1996. Currently, the consortium has over 30 organizational members from academia and profit sectors mainly in Kansai area in Japan. The primary objective of the project is to make efforts to develop and deploy new applications on large scale broadband Internet environment. The other objective is to contribute activities for introductions of the benefits of broadband digital communication infrastructure to broad segments of society. The project conducted several technical experiments and demonstrations on our testbed network which is an ATM wide area network connecting members' site in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara area in Japan. This network is the largest "regional" broadband testbed network in Japan.

The Cyber Kansai Project has become one of major Internet research groups in Japan. Since its creation, the Cyber Kansai Project has joint research activities with WIDE Project. In 1999, the Cyber Kansai Project has become a member of JAIRC (Japan Advanced Internet Research Consortium) and start joint research activities with UCAID in U.S. Furthermore, our testbed is now directly connected to JGI (Japan's Gigabit Infrastructure) invested by Ministry of Post and Telecommunication of Japanese Government.

2. Digitizing International Conferences

The fundamental idea of our concept "digitizing the conference" is quite simple. In this concept, there are three key ideas.

The first idea is live broadcasting to share the situation in the conference. All the contents available in the conference is stored and made available for people through the Internet. In this concept, all the conference sessions are broadcasted in video and audio over the Internet and/or other broadcasting media. This service is a direct support to reach out more people in the world.

The second idea is an archive service of the contents. The lively broadcasted video and audio are recorded and stored in its archive service for future retrievals. This service has several advantages: the archive services helps people who are living in different time zones where it is hard for watch the live broadcasting services. Also, the archive service may help delegates attending the conference. Because multiple conference sessions are held in simultaneously in many international conferences, the delegates from large economies such as Japan, United States, and European countries can form their large delegates for covering all the sessions held in the conferences. However, delegates from small economies sometimes cannot make a delegates large enough to join all the sessions; typical delegates we found in both COP3 and COP4 had only a single person as a delegates. For people in these small delegates, the archive service can help to catch up on what was going on the other sessions in the conference.

The third idea is to have a digital repository of all the documents. All the documents available in the conference are stored in some digital form and provided for people through network services such as WWW. These materials are frequently referred in discussions in the conference. It is fairly desirable for everybody to have any documentation available in the conference.

With services implementing the concept "digitizing the conference", people can attend the conference physically and virtually through the information infrastructure. In this sense, the "digitizing the conference" can be a new way of international conferences in the next decade. If a mechanism for supporting discussions among people attending the conference both physically and virtually is available, it can facilitate more involvement of people to the conference. The service can help many people who cannot attend the conference physically. Especially for government level international conferences, selected delegates only can attend the conference, therefore, large number of people have to watch the conference from the outside.

3. Our Challenges

In this section, we introduce our challenges in UNFCCC's COP3 and COP4 as the implementation of the concept "digitizing the conference".

3.1. COP3 in Kyoto, Japan (1997)

The third Conference of Parties of United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC COP3) was held in Kyoto, Japan, from December 1 to 11, 1997. Because of the greenhouse effect spotlighted in the early 1990's, the UN set up the framework to discuss how countries in the world act against this issue, that is UNFCCC. Basically the COP is a collection of meetings and events related to topics about global-level climate changes. In the COP3, a huge number of people in the world paid attention to the progress of its main meeting with national delegates from a large number of countries, because its expected output is a framework on how much countries in the world limit the greenhouse emission. This is a reason why many people think this is the most important meeting for human beings in this decade. All about UNFCCC, COP3, and their related information are available at UNFCCC Web site [2].

In this conference, the Cyber Kansai Project tried to "digitize" the conference as much as possible into both the Internet live broadcasting and digital video/audio archive available for the Internet users. The purpose of this activity was to enhance the impact of the COP3 conference by using the most advanced information technology to broadcast its meetings to the entire world via the Internet. In order to implement this service, we proposed our plan to UNFCCC secretariat and the secretariate agreed to us to make coordination for this activity as an optional conference support package for COP3.

3.1.1. Services

Our goals was to provide three services shown below:

Live Broadcasting to the Internet: Our project provided the Internet video/audio live broadcasting service covering all the plenary sessions, working group sessions, UN press conferences, and selected special event sessions in COP3. Since these live broadcasting was not filtered, therefore, subscribers of this service on the Internet could access to full information and see what was going on in the session as they were physically attending. Furthermore, all the broadcasting services were with dubbed audio with 6 UN official languages (English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Russian) and Japanese so that dubbed audio made great help for subscribers to understand the contents of the conference.

Video Archives: Since we guessed it was slightly hard for many people living in different time zones to see our live broadcasting on the Internet, the "video on demand" style video archive service was also provided. This service was completely integrated to the WWW service; users could browse titles of recorded "live" video and audio contents and view them. Since the conference sessions were normally over 2 or 3 hours, the detailed index was provided to ease users to find out the appropriate section they wanted to view.

Digital Video Broadcasting to local stations: For more public awareness of this conference, we fed the high quality digital TV images (DVCpro images) to several locations in Kansai area. We installed large TV viewers (over 100 inches) at several locations such as the public space in the large business complex (OBP: Osaka Business Park) in Osaka, and the exhibition hall (Pulse Plaza) in Kyoto where the COP3 related event were held. From the conference venue of COP3 to these location, our regional high-speed Internet testbed based on ATM OC-3 links carried digital TV images. Furthermore, the digital TV images were also provided to a local CATV station in Kobe, and the CATV station provided our TV images in their broadcasting program.

Through providing these services, we tried to give an opportunity for people to start thinking the future form of international conferences.

3.1.2. Systems

Figure 1 depicts our system configuration.

The Internet video/audio broadcasting was implemented using Real System by RealNetworks Inc. [3] There are several reasons why we used the Real System:

With Real System, users can view our video/audio live streams as well as our archive services using Real Player freely provided by RealNetworks Inc.

Since the COP3 was held in Kyoto International Conference Hall (KICH), the core systems such as our Real encoders, Real servers and our WWW servers for our archive services were installed locally at KICH.

For this broadcasting, we installed (1) video/audio on-site networks to get scene in conference rooms at KICH, (2) 10 Real encoders for converting video stream to Real System video streams, (3) 5 Real Servers for broadcasting. Since dubbed video sources in 7 languages (6 UN official language and Japanese) were available for meetings in the main hall and selected press conferences, we prepared10 encoders (including backup). 5 Real Severs are used for load balancing purpose. We also made coordination with 12 sites both in Japan and overseas to set up Real Severs as a video stream splitter in order to make load balancing and congestion avoidance in the global level. For example, a person in Europe can use our splitter in Germany to get higher quality of video broadcasting instead of using Real servers in KICH in Japan where the RTT is fairly large so the Real server can't provide good quality of video streams. For this service, 12 Real splitters were installed in various locations in the Internet: 6 in Japan, 2 in Thailand, one each in Germany, U.S., Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Our traffic to U.S. and the other countries were carried by IMnet which had 6Mbps link to the US., while the AI3 project [4,5] provided the Internet connectivity for the traffic to Asian countries which was 1.5Mbps satellite Internet links

We also installed our WWW site in our testbed where the video archive services are provided. Users can access and retrieve our video archive of the COP3. In our video archive of the COP3, all the video sources are encoded into RealVideo format. Moreover, we put marks (references) in Video so that users can jump into the video section they want to look.

For broadcasting the digital TV images, our testbed network was fully used. The digital TV image broadcast system, shown in Figure 2, was developed by our project with the corporation of Panasonic Inc. and Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (TV station). This system was attached directly to ATM OC-3 link and carried DVCpro images in 32Mbps.

Figure 1. The System Configuration of our COP3 system.

Figure 2. Video Transmission system using DVCpro: This system transmits video in the DVCpro format over the high-speed Internet or ATM networks. The black box below under the TV monitor is DVCpro video recorder/player and the PC box left is a controller of this system. The controller has an ATM NIC (OC-3) and packetize and reconstruct video frames in DVCpro format. The peak consumption of the bandwidth is about 32Mbps.

3.1.3. What we achieved

The goals of our project were successfully achieved. The total hours of a live broadcasting is around 70 hours and our video archive holds over 418 hours video recording several meetings in the COP3. The access history to the live broadcasting and the video archive is shown as graphs in Figure 3 and 4. The total access counts to our COP3 WWW site as of midnight December 12th, 1997 when the COP3 was completely over was 470,707 and the total subscribers of a live broadcasting was 25,574.

The most significant result through this experiment is that many people from 61 countries accessed our live broadcasting service. What we transmitted out was a non-filtered video source of the COP3 in at most 7 channels with dubbed in 7 languages. If there was not our system, only the people who attend the COP3 in Kyoto could see what was actually going on the conference. However, our system enables a large number of people around the world could participate to the COP3 through the Internet. We believe that we provide a future form of the international conferences.

However, we found out several points we did not achieved. One thing is that we could not cover all of open meeting in the COP3 because of our limitation of resources. In this experiment, we focused only on meetings as plenary and press conferences. However, there were many interesting and important meeting happen in COP3 simultaneously. If we could cover these meetings, we could add more value to our video archive as a complete record of the COP3.

Another issue is that we could not make "media mix" type of services. For subscribers of our service, they would like to see both video and related documents in the same time to understand the conference more deeply. This "media mix" type of contents can be technically generated but it requires a huge amount of time to re-organized all the contents if we provide in the current WWW framework. New technologies to enable us to generate this "media mix" type of contents should be developed, including authoring tools, navigation tools etc. The other thing we could not achieved is that we did not provide interactive communication channels between the COP3 and people sitting in front of computer terminals remotely. If we could provide this kind of interactive service, the COP3 could get more active participants through the Internet and saves more time and cost for traveling to Kyoto for physically attending to the COP3. Of course, we need more discussions on how to implement the system and how to organize the conference. But, this kind of the system may be accepted in the near future.

Figure 3. The daily access counts to our services: the live broadcasting was terminated on December 11th, 1997, so that there is no access after 11th, however, at 2 weeks after the COP3 was over, there were several (around 200) accesses to our archives.

Figure 4. The Daily access to our services in the second of video play.

3.2 COP4 in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998)

In the COP3, we demonstrated a new way of supporting international conferences to reach out to more people in the world, using the power and potential of the Internet. However, many people criticized that our services could be implemented because the COP3 was held in Japan where high-speed Internet backbone and sufficient supply of both human resources and equipment are available. However, we suppose that this service can be implemented even with ordinary Internet infrastructure and equipment.

In order to confirm usability and universality of our service, we decided to be involved again to UNFCCC COP4 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Cyber Kansai Project implements the Internet video/audio broadcasting and its archive service using ordinary inexpensive resources available in Argentina. The COP4 was held from November 2 to 13, 1998. The goal of our challenges in COP4 is:

3.2.1 System Design

For our system design, we made several assumptions: With these assumptions, we designed our system for Internet broadcasting in COP4. The system configuration is shown in Figure 5.

Software components are Real System for video/audio encoding and distributing, and Apache WWW server for our archive service. With the same reasons, we decided to use Real System again for the COP4. The systems are not free, but it's easy to purchase Real Systems via the Internet. Apache WWW server is a very popular freeware. We use FreeBSD operating system for running Apache WWW server.

All computers we used at the COP4 were Intel-based personal computers. For video/audio encoders, we brought laptop PCs from Japan. Several months before the COP4, we knew that the space for our network operation locally at COP4 conference venue was small, so that we decided to use laptop PCs for space saving. However, it is obvious that these laptop PCs can be replaced with ordinary desktop PCs.

The network we used in our operation room was 10/100Mbps Ethernet. The network to the Internet was E1 link provided by the local commercial ISP in Buenos Aires. These components are also inexpensive and popular.

Figure 5. The System Configuration of our COP4 system.

3.2.2. Services

With the limitation of the available bandwidth from the COP4 conference venue to the Internet, we decided to provide up to 2 video streams with 6 UN official languages as its live broadcasting. A single video stream consists of 20Kbps video and 8.5Kbps audio in order to allow users to access our services via 28.8Kbps dial-up link. For the live broadcasting, we installed 3 Real splitters in Japan, one each in U.S., England, and Thailand.

For the video/audio archive, we prepared our WWW server locally at Buenos Aires. However, the available bandwidth from the Internet to COP4 conference venue was limited to 2Mbps, we also installed our mirror site in U.S.

3.2.3. Results

In November 1998, we provided our service in COP4 successfully. The total hours of live broadcasting was 87 hours covering 52 conference sessions and the total archived video was for 517 hours. On the other hand, the numbers of accesses to our WWW site was around 58,000 and the number of subscribers of our live broadcasting was 3,895. This number is much smaller than one in COP3. However, the total subscription hours of our live broadcasting in COP4 was 475 hours, while 1406 hours in COP3. Therefore, the average hours of the live broadcasting subscription in COP4 (0.12 hr.) is much larger than one in COP3 (0.06 hr.). This result is interesting that our users in COP4 stayed on our live service much more than users in COP3.

The system configuration did not make any serious trouble in terms of maintenance. In the case we faced hardware failures, it was quite easy to replace and fix PC hardware. Furthermore, since there was no special Audio/Video equipment as well as computer devices such as video capture cards, there was no serious troubles on them.

For the logistics, the total amount of our equipment can be packed into a single standard air-freight container, so that it is easy for us to bring them to anywhere in the world.

4. Concluding Remarks

The "digitizing the conference" is a new form of supporting the international conference to reach out more communities in the world. The live video/audio broadcasting of conference sessions and archive services for both video/audio and documents are essential parts for realizing this concept. The Cyber Kansai Project was involved to UNFCCC's COP3 and COP4 conferences in order to implement the system based on this concept and to confirm its usability and universality of the services.

Through our challenges in COP3 and COP4, we can conclude that the supporting the international conference with the "digitizing the conference" services is great help to the people who are involved to the conference as well as the public who has any interests on it. Furthermore, since this service is not filtered service, users can access full information, therefore, the service allows people to feel if they are physically attending the conference.

Our archive server for video/audio contents of both COP3 and COP4 are still provided at URL [1].


Our work in COP3 and COP4 began as a suggestion by Toshio Watanabe of Dentsu Inc. Our heart felt thanks to over 100 people who were working with us at COP3 and COP4, especially, Tadahisa Okimoto of NTT, Tomoaki Sakurai of Keel Inc., Prof. Dr. Motonori Nakamura of Kyoto University, Prof. Dr. Shinji Shimojo of Osaka University, Prof. Dr. Toshiharu Hasegawa of Nanzan University, Seiji Kumagai of ISID, Keishi Kandori, Toyokazu Yoshida, and Koichi Kinoshita of Asahi Broadcasting Corporation, Ms. Hiromi "dora" Ohta of Dentsu Inc., Masaya Hatta of AMS Inc.


  1. The Cyber Kansai Project Web site, <http://www.ckp.or.jp>
  2. UNFCCC's COP3 Web site, <http://www.cop3.de>
  3. RealNetworks Inc. Web site <http://www.real.com>
  4. Suguru Yamaguchi and Jun Murai, "Asian Internet Interconnection Initiatives," Proceedings of INET'96, Internet Society, 1996. (available at the AI3 Web site at [5])
  5. The AI3 Project Web site <http://www.ai3.net>