Time is money, and videoconferencing saves both

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Why is videoconferencing becoming all the rage? It's mostly the money.

'Our agency is divided between Colorado and Washington, so it saves money to use videoconferencing,' said a senior communications and systems specialist for the Interior Department's National Business Center in Denver.

In a GCN telephone survey, 88 percent of IT managers we talked with said their agencies have set up videoconferencing systems. About half said they use videoconferencing to cut costs at a time when government budgets are tight.

'We save money on base lodging, hotel expenditures and gasoline,' said a Navy Recruiting Command system administrator in New Orleans.

'It saves the taxpayers money,' said a Federal Aviation Administration LAN administrator in Anchorage, Alaska.

In addition to helping reduce costs, videoconferencing means not having to be on the road.
'It saves a valuable resource called time,' said a General Services Administration IT manager in Washington.

'We can save on travel time and can still communicate,' added an Air Force IT specialist at the Pentagon.

Ninety-five percent of managers in the sample said their agencies have a dedicated videoconferencing room for virtual meetings. Only 30 percent were set up for desktop videoconferencing.

'We use it for regional meetings of department heads,' said a Veterans Affairs Department telecom specialist in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 'We have 10 hospital locations in the region.'

Some agencies that have videoconferencing systems don't only use them to conquer distance: 27 percent of managers conduct meetings within the same building or campus with electronic video.
More than three-quarters in the survey like videoconferencing because it provides more personal contact than phone or Web conferencing.

'Telephone conferencing was becoming inadequate,' said a systems coordinator for the Social Security Administration in Philadelphia. 'It's better to see the person.'

'It cuts travel time and costs and you can still have face-to-face meetings,' added a Navy computer specialist in San Diego.

But not all managers in the survey were gung-ho on video.

'It's better to travel,' said a National Weather Service IT specialist in Silver Spring, Md. 'I liked the old way of doing things.'

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