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GSA Centers Bring Telepresence to the Federal Government

October 20, 2011
at 7:50 am PST

Back in July, I wrote about the federal government’s General Services Administration’s (GSA) plan to install 15 telepresence centers in federal buildings around the country.  Well, I’m excited to report those sites are up and running!

Outfitted with Cisco TelePresence, the sites allow federal employees to conduct face-to-face, real time meetings with colleagues in faraway locations without incurring any travel expenses. Participants can share electronic documents and presentations, discuss strategy, and look each other in the eye across the virtual table. The GSA sites are open to employees from agencies that register to use the telepresence system.

The GSA telepresence centers offer several advantages to the government and its employees. In addition to the money saved on travel expenses, access to telepresence lets government entities operate more efficiently. Employees can speak with colleagues in other buildings as easily as pushing one button—it’s less work than walking down the hall to a conference room! Logistics and timing become much less burdensome as well when plane tickets, cars, hotels, and entertainment need not factor into the equation. These efficiencies for which telepresence allows also help the government go green. Less travel translates to less emissions; telepresence offers carbon-free communication.

While they are a great first step toward a fully telepresence-equipped government, the GSA centers can only serve so many people at a time. Because of the centers’ limited availability, federal agencies should still consider installing their own telepresence networks. I’ve mentioned the great conversations we had at the DISA conference about the potential for telepresence to help the Department of Defense maintain optimal military operations. There’s also the potential for the technology to ease the transition of the BRAC base closings. Surely other agencies could also benefit from high-definition video communication that replaces costly, time-consuming travel.

How could telepresence help make your government job easier and more efficient?

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