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Can Telepresence and Video Conferencing Pave the Way for a Greener and More Robust Economy?

globeinhandThe Climate Group estimates that by transforming the way people and businesses use technology, the United States can reduce CO2 emissions by 13% to 22% by 2020. The key though, according to a recent report, Networking the Green Economy: How Broadband and Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future, is ubiquitous broadband access.

The report states that “with coordinated research, support and action from consumers, advocates and federal and state legislators, broadband and related communication technologies [such as telepresence and video conferencing] can pave the way for a greener and more robust economy.”

The current global economy has increased the need for business travel, resulting in negative environment impacts due to increased carbon emissions, and distributed social services have left some behind. However, recent technological advancements, such as video conferencing and telepresence, have become viable substitutes for many in-person interactions resulting in an overall reduction in greenhouse gasses and enormous savings on time and money. For instance, the report found:

  • Conducting virtual meetings to replace remote in person interactions could reduce 20-30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, providing gross savings of $5-10 billion from reduced spending on fuel for airplanes.
  • Telehealth and distance learning programs supported by video conferencing are essential for expanding opportunities for both patients and students to access higher quality resources that might not be available without wasteful long-distance travel.
  • Telecommuting or flex work can potentially be a key contributor to a greener economy by creating substantial savings across the economy and the environment by helping businesses reduce, or more efficiently use, their office space, and allowing employees to save on gas and commuting time.

As broadband becomes more readily available and telepresence and video conferencing continue to advance, it is mind bending to imagine how visual communications will change the way we do everything. Thoughts?

Grants bring money saving technology to schools

March 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm PST

In an effort to continue providing a high-quality education to students in the midst of massive budget cuts, many schools and school districts are turning to new technology and innovative ideas that can save money.

In fact, a recent article in a local paper near the TANDBERG offices in Northern Virginia discusses some of the innovative ways that this region is looking at to help cut costs. One of those ways is something we talk about frequently here at the Public Sector blog: video teleconferencing (VTC).

The use of VTC in schools saves money while facilitating improvements in the quality of education to students because it allows teachers and districts to share resources and access people and places never before possible. Purchasing VTC solutions does have its up front costs, though, that can sometimes be a major hurdle for schools.

Luckily, there are multiple grant programs available for school systems looking to implement VTC. Grants such as the RUS Distance Learning & Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program can go a long way in making VTC a reality for cash-strapped schools.

A great example of what grant money can do for schools (and a state!) is the Utah Education Network (UEN), which enables rural schools in Utah to join universities and high school classrooms anywhere in the state through VTC. The $13.4 million grant grant will allow UEN to expand service to dozens of elementary schools, public libraries, charter schools and Head Start centers across the state. According to the article, it is expected to benefit 963,900 citizens, create 450 jobs and deliver over 200 classes per day for over 600 participating educational institutions.

By breaking down the walls, VTC enables high-quality education, creates cost savings and brings brighter futures to students, teachers and entire communities.

If you have an interest in pursuing a grant to purchase VTC, the TANDBERG Grant Services Team has an interactive webinar coming which will highlight the 2010 RUS-DLT Grant and others – it is scheduled for March 9, 2010 at 12:00 PM Eastern. Registration is available HERE.

5 Tips For Showcasing Your Video Conferencing Program

March 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm PST

Once people try video conferencing and see how easy and versatile it is, they’re hooked. The secret lies in getting them to try it that first time.  You need to make a big splash, then give employees plenty of opportunities to try out your “product.” We’ve put together some sample launch activities and events that have been successful for others. Your corporate communications or marketing department may also have excellent ideas for launching and promoting your video program.

  1. Host a Video Open House -A Video Open House is an effective way to introduce video to your organization. Run your Video Open House throughout the day with 30-minute training sessions that allow departments and employees to drop in when they have time. Identify Super Users within your organization who can demonstrate the basics of placing a call, connecting a PC and adding multiple calls — as well as answer questions about your video systems.
  2. Sponsor a Special Event via Video Seeing is believing! Build excitement around your video program by featuring an external speaker via video conferencing or using video to connect to an external event. Arrange for a video tour of a remote facility or even invite employees and their families on a video field trip. Seeing the interaction that video makes possible in a fun and interesting context
    is an excellent way to get employees excited to register for training.
  3. Set Up a Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Unit The more people can touch and feel new technology, the more comfortable they become with it. Place a small desktop video unit with information about your video program in the lobby, cafeteria or other high-traffic communal areas. This will raise awareness and make it easy for employees to explore the value video conferencing provides.
  4. Virtual Water Cooler Relationships get forged in casual settings. Set up a video unit in your cafeteria or other public area and dial into another company location. When employees walk past this virtual water cooler they can see who’s passing by on the other end and say “hello.”
  5. Make Training Invitations Personal Have your Executive Sponsor invite employees to training sessions to ensure high attendance.

Watch the video below to see how Vodafone found success by extending video to all functions and levels of its organization. To learn more about Vodafone’s adoption of  video conferencing read the case study by Frost & Sullivan.

This is just a summary of the Showcasing Your Video Program that can be downloaded from VideoChampion.com. Visit the site for more information and tips. Got any others to add?

Smart cost cutting through better technology

March 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm PST

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.

Is Video Conferencing the Latest Accessory for World Leaders?

March 2, 2010 at 11:49 am PST
Dimitri Medvedev using the Tandberg Tactical MXP

Dimitri Medvedev using the Tandberg Tactical MXP

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?

to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum