The U.S. continues to experience widespread job loss, and the latest survey on consumer sentiment shows that it is falling and consumer spending is down. Not the best news.
Leading economists still predict that the recession will end in the coming months. President Obama says that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was designed to work over a two-year time period, not in just a few months.
Part of ARRA funding that is hitting states soon is for education programs. Of the more than $48 billion provided to states to stabilize their budgets, almost $40 billion of that was designated for education.
In Salem, Arkansas, the local school board has already decided to spend a portion of their stimulus funding on high-resolution video conferencing systems to implement virtual field trips and create opportunities for interactive education.
We’re looking forward to seeing how other states and school districts use their ARRA funding, and are anticipating a healthier economy in 2010.
As we continue to see reduced or flat IT budgets and the economy continues to be stalled, many cities and states, such as California, are faced with reducing costs even more.
Smart governments are also looking at how to maximize any existing technologies they already have to meet the Obama Administration’s call for accountability and transparency. Many of them are looking at video conferencing as a way to bolster communication efforts, and some are looking to take it beyond its use as a “conference room only” tool.
Now more than ever, video can serve many purposes, including the need to be mobile and interoperable. We continue to see reports of the H1N1 virus spreading despite the summer weather, and the possibility looms that it could re-emerge with a vengeance in the fall. A report earlier this month noted that three workers at the Washington Post have been asked to work from home due to the H1N1 virus. This scenario, along with possible travel restrictions, will become more common as we continue to attempt to curb its spread.
Mobile video conferencing solutions are a great way to add onto existing networks and allow your agency to continue its mission-critical efforts in a telework or travel restricted environment. Smaller portable units can be used in home or for travel, and mobile units can be used on a wireless network. These technologies offer integration into existing tools like Microsoft OCS, which many agencies already own and can help them stay within budget.
So if these budget-tightening trends continue, integration with existing technologies will be key. If you already own video conferencing technology, there are ways to augment what you already have and make use of that existing technology while providing new services.
Video conferencing is helping out in the battlefield these days by giving doctors access to specialists and facilities that may be thousands of miles away. I shared a few examples with Washington Technology Magazine recently about how video conferencing is so clear now that a doctor can look right at a patient’s pupil to see if there’s an immediate problem.
Along with reading X-rays by video conferencing, this helps doctors diagnose brain injuries and allows the Veterans Administration, the Army Medical Information Technology Center and others to get treatment to soldiers faster. Other agencies, such as the Department of Defense, are attracted to TANDBERG because of our JITC and IPv6 certifications, which ensure that we are secure and interoperable with other equipment.
Security, interoperability and enhanced collaboration are the reasons that federal agencies rely heavily on this technology. Use is growing, and, as a bonus, agencies are reducing their carbon footprints and lowering communication costs. The agency wins, the environment wins and the warfighter wins. That’s good news all around.
Joel Brunson, President, TANDBERG public sector
In a recent ruling on the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court stated that prosecutors need to have forensic experts available for a defendant’s cross-examination since technicians who prepare reports act as “witnesses” for the prosecution.
The ruling is important to protect defendants from being wrongly convicted due to inaccurate laboratory tests and/or evidence, but it has created a lot of dissent on the state and local government level. Many just don’t have the budget or resources available to ensure that experts are on hand for cross examination.
In today’s current economic environment, many states are having significant problems with balancing their budgets. The additional costs associated with ensuring that experts appear in court are going to be a huge strain on resources and potentially an inefficient use of time for forensic personnel.
There is a solution that would require an initial investment, but would subsequently save the states significant amounts of money over time: video teleconferencing (VTC). By implementing VTC in courtrooms, experts could “appear” in court and testify without the added expense of travel to appear in a courtroom in-person.
The concept of using VTC in the criminal justice system isn’t particularly new. In a previous post we talked about how the San Antonio police department is using video conferencing in the search warrant process, which is saving time and money by cutting down on the time needed to process a search warrant.
With the new Supreme Court ruling in effect, VTC could be a good solution for saving money for state governments while ensuring defendants get a fair and speedy trial.
Teleworking could save 84 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually
A recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation predicts that telecommuting could grow fourfold in the U.S. to 19 million and deliver substantial economic, environmental and quality of life benefits over the next 12 years. Spurred by advances in IT, such as video conferencing, many businesses have turned to telecommuting as a viable solution to cut costs, increase productivity, and expand the universe of potential employees. In fact, Fortune Magazine found that 82 out of the 100 Best U.S. Companies to work for provide telecommuting opportunities today, compared with only 18 in 1998. Furthermore, if those who could work from home did so half of the time, 84 million metric tons of greenhouse gas would be saved annually.
The report calls for the government to pursue policies to accelerate and maximize telecommuting. Video conferencing is an integral technology for teleworkers who need to maintain important face-time with managers and other remote teammates. More proof that now is the time to invest in visual communications solutions.
See how much you could save on your commute with TANDBERG’s Commuter Cost Calculator.