It should come as no surprise that cost cutting remains a major initiative for state and local governments. In this current economic situation, the need for social programs such as childcare assistance and unemployment benefits rises while available tax dollars decreases due to less income and sales tax revenue. Meaning, governments are being asked to do more with far less.
In a recent article published in Governing Magazine, Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis and current director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School—discussed the ongoing fiscal challenges facing states and the steps being taken to address them.
One of the issues Mr. Goldsmith addresses is the false perception of frivolous government programs. According to his article, the presence of frivolous and wasteful programs is far less of an issue than the waste and inefficiencies within necessary programs. In an effort to reduce this waste, government organizations are looking to embrace new technologies such as electronic benefit transfer programs and plastic benefit cards to help run these programs more effectively and efficiently.
Although the use of technology to cut waste out of programs is an incredible way of controlling government spending and bringing the budget in line, there are a handful of other areas where new technologies could help save the government money. These technologies may not be targeted at social programs, but rather could yield significant savings in day-to-day government operations.
One of these technologies is video teleconferencing (VTC), which enables government employees to interact and have natural face-to-face conversations regardless of the distance separating them. When implemented across a government organization or agency, VTC can generate significant cost savings in many areas, including travel expenses, while enhancing collaboration via video instead of in person.
Travel isn’t the only area where VTC saves the government money, however. By implementing VTC technologies, government offices can easily embrace telework without a serious decrease in collaboration, production or communication. This means that offices can be closed an additional day every week, or some employees can be given the option of working from home, significantly decreasing the use and cost of office supplies and utilities. This can also decrease the amount of office space and real estate needed, which are major costs facing government organizations.
By looking internally at day-to-day operations and implementing cost-cutting technologies such as VTC, as well as implementing changes and technologies to cut down waste and inefficiency in social programs, state and local governments can make a serious dent in their budget woes. VTC technologies are breaking down the walls between government employees and enabling the government to operate more effectively and inexpensively. Now that’s a new way of governing.
As seen in Fast Company, Dimitri Medvedev, the President of Russia, has found the solution for the busy world leader on the go. He uses a laptop which boasts over thirteen types of embedded encryption and is mainly used for video conferencing over an ISDN line: Portable video conferencing that is secure enough for a president to conduct business over.
President Obama also takes full advantage of video conferencing. Last month, he used it to announce to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum the appointment of Rashad Hussain as his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. And the White House communicates daily over video conferencing.
With all the hype about President Obama’s savviness with technology, one has to wonder when he’ll make the switch from his much talked about Blackberry to video on the go?
PC video conferencing is all about mobility and connecting people anywhere, anytime. When interoperable with a standards compliant video solution, PC video becomes an even more powerful solution as it extends the benefits of face-to-face collaboration beyond the walls of the office.
I hear quite a bit about how PC video helps preserve business continuity and generally makes life easier and better for its users. There are just too many examples to write about all of them, but here are a few compelling real world examples that demonstrate the power and utility of PC Video:
Just this week Yong was traveling internationally. An unscheduled and urgent meeting was called for 3PM EST, which unfortunately for Yong meant 9PM CET. Instead of having to take a taxi back to the office, he simply used PC video to call in from his hotel room…he even presented a PowerPoint presentation
Henrik runs a product meeting over video every week at 3:30PM. Problem is, one week he had to be home for an appointment at 4:00PM. The solution? Henrik started driving home and at 3:30 he pulled over and led the meeting from his car with his PC and a wireless internet connection (and yes he parked the car for the video call…).
During Jeannie’s recent business trip to Chicago, a huge snowstorm shut down several airports and she was stuck in Chicago for an additional 3 days. Because she has PC video, she continued about her job with face-to-face meetings and other calls. Most importantly though, Jeannie was able to call home and see her family, letting her 4-year-old son know she would be home soon.
Michael needed to connect with a customerduring his flight from Houston to Dallas…no worries; with an internet connection in the air he was able make a video call and provide the consultation needed. Making the experience even better, Michael’s call was to a telepresence unit at the customer site.
And in our most unique application…
Scott - seen in the below video -- is training for a triathlon and cycles to work a few times a week. In order to maximize his time, Scott has rigged a special platform to his bike so he can make his calls on the way in….talk about an efficient use of time! (please don’t try this at home folks…)
In previous posts on the TANDBERG Public Sector blog we’ve discussed how video teleconferencing (VTC) can be used to keep citizens safe, reduce transportations costs and speed time to trial by allowing offenders to appear in court via video.
Another area where VTC plays an important role should not be ignored either – prisoner healthcare. For everything from flu outbreaks to infectious diseases all the way to dental services, mental health and psychiatric treatments, telemedicine has proven to be not only a cost saver, but a more effective way of delivering care with the least security risk to everyone involved.
In the past, doctors and specialists would have to physically go into the prison to administer care, or prisoners would have to be transported to hospitals. Similar to relocating prisoners for court appearances, this process is expensive and requires exposing citizens to possible harm.
Utilizing VTC equipment, specialists can be delivered directly to the prison with no travel required. This not only decreases the cost of administering care, but ensures that it can be delivered quickly and efficiently – the prisoner gets timely care, the doctor can see more patients, and safety is maintained.
A great example of VTC being used for telemedicine in prisons can be seen in the State of California, which recently released a report detailing ways they were improving the delivery of care to prisons. According to the report, entitled Achieving a Constitutional Level of Medical Care In California’s Prisons, California conducts 16,000 telemedicine visits with prisoners each year. This year alone, $13 million was saved utilizing telemedicine to treat patients.
In fact, California’s foray into telemedicine in prisons has been so successful that the state has begun to implement additional telemedicine specialties, according to the report. Also, six separate correctional institutions are looking to improve and expand their telemedicine services, including the North Kern State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, Centinela State Prison, California State Prison at Corcoran and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility.
By delivering doctors and specialists to prisons via video, states can ensure that prisoners get the care they need without spending significant budget dollars and putting citizens in danger. TANDBERG solutions have played a large role in the adoption of telemedicine in prisons and is proud to be leading this new way of caring.
Video conferencing delivers hole in one for the London Golf Club
The London Golf Club has taken an unexpected approach to increasing business that proves leisure venues as well as business offices can benefit from video conferencing. Recognizing that video conferencing is commonplace in the business world, the Club has found a place for it in its facility as a way to gain a competitive edge amongst similar venues.
By installing video conferencing as a managed service in it’s oak-paneled Club Room, the Club is able to make the service available to both its membership base as well as casual and corporate visitors. This new and unexpected friendship between business and pleasure appears to be paying off. In a recent article, Terry Dwyer, managing director at mvision, says “The London Golf Club is busier on a Thursday than a Saturday.”
The London Golf Club recognizes that video conferencing offers users more efficient communication, reduces business travel and improves work/life balance. By adopting video the Club can now offer a valuable service to its existing members and also attract new ones. Its a great way to drive traffic to the venue and showcase everything the club has to offer when business is done. This partnership is the perfect example of how to mix business with pleasure in a successful way.
Has your favorite leisure venue used video conferencing to attracted business? What other types of companies could benefit from video conferencing?