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No time like now for distance learning

The economy continues to be tough – unemployment is higher than it’s been since the early 1980s and all levels of services, particularly at the state level, are being threatened. While agencies at all levels are feeling the pinch, services are expected to continue to be provided and employees still want to learn and grow on the job. In addition, agencies are also looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints.

Video conferencing could be a way to work toward both goals concurrently. Using the right technology, agencies can use video to create off-site training opportunities to expedite professional development without requiring employees to travel across a city, state or the country. Video can also be used to record, archive and podcast meetings, presentations and projects, allowing employees with schedule conflicts or who are ill or on vacation to access the information on demand.

A great example is the use of video in Kansas’s Kan-ed network, which serves schools, higher education institutions and libraries across the state. Using the TANDBERG Codian Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), Kan-ed now offers one integrated network for video, teaching, training, meetings and data sharing, as well as access to the commercial Internet – all with one router and one network connection. The network also makes it easier for K-12 administrators and teachers, specifically, to connect to state agencies and take advantage of various staff development opportunities that would otherwise have necessitated considerable expenditure of time and travel.

In addition, video can provide collaboration opportunities for agency workers who need to interact with colleagues across town or across the globe. That interaction can include everything from trouble-shooting problems with co-workers on site, to brainstorming sessions in high-definition, real-time environments.

Video can help your agency satisfy training requirements, keep employees connected with each other and reduce its carbon footprint. All while helping staff learn valuable skills in an uncertain economy.

What is your agency doing with video right now?

Video Conferencing Brings Fragmented Families Closer

Video conferencing brings families together

Video conferencing brings families together

Video conferencing has helped many families of divorce cope with the struggles of staying connected while living apart. A recent article in the Huffington Post details how Utah resident Michael Gough worried that his ex-wife’s relocation to Wisconsin would hinder his parental involvement. He sought to have the right to video conference with his daughter and as a result Utah was the first state to pass legislation for virtual visitation in 2004. Since then, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas and North Carolina have all passed similar legislation.

“With video conferencing, I was able to read bedtime stories, help her with her homework and even watch her open up a present,” said Gough.

How has video conferencing brought you closer to family and friends?

Stimulus dollars supporting investments in education

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.

In a lean year, video can slot in where needed

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.

Battlefield diagnoses with no carbon footprint

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