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The benefits that companies can see as a result of telecommuting and videoconferencing solutions are also being taken up by the public sector with a new bill in the US Congress.
Representative Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania has introduced a bill into the House that aims to cut the amount that federal agencies spend on travel by encouraging more effective use of collaborative technology solutions such as videoconferencing.
The Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013 (HR 2643) aims to slash federal travel expenditure by at least 50 percent from 2013 levels, with the bill – if passed – to be implemented from 2017. It states: “While the Administration has made efforts to utilize video conferencing and reduce travel expenses, such practices are still a largely untapped means of saving taxpayer dollars.”
Some of the key benefits of this technology are highlighted, including the fact it can cut carbon emissions, facilitate staff training and interagency meetings and boost employee productivity, in addition to the cost saving to be seen as a result of less travel.
It added: “The video conferencing industry has shifted from a hardware-based model to a browser-based model, leading to reduced expenses and increased efficiency in a system that is able to meet the needs in daily commerce for full-featured conferencing.”
The bill also cites previous legislation aiming at boosting the use of telecommuting, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires every federal agency to put in place policies to enable remote working.
Benefits that can be seen from videoconferencing are also being increasingly recognized by other governments around the world and by leading the way with this technology, this may also boost awareness of the solutions in the private sector.
The UK government, for example, promoted telecommuting heavily during last year’s London Olympics, primarily as a method to allow employees to avoid the expected increased congestion during the event. However, the Civil Service stated a key aim was to use this as a pilot to demonstrate the long-term benefits of tools such as videoconferencing and foster a lasting legacy that will see flexibility ingrained into the culture of the public and private sectors in the country.
This legislation is useless. All it does is require Executive Branch Agencies to report on what they’re already doing to reduce travel costs. Sure, the Director of OMB can call for further reductions, but that’ll be as successful as the call for more teleworking. Federal Agencies have been using videoconferencing since it became a viable technology. Congress should focus on reducing the $26 million they spend on commercial travel, which doesn’t count all the free military travel they use.
Thanks for your comment. The legislation is highlighting that video conferencing is a largely untapped resource, hopefully that will lead more to see the benefits. If Federal Agencies are already using the technology, they should be the first to be asked about its benefits. Since the legislation (if passed) won’t come into effect until 2017, hopefully that will give the government time to implement more actual plans to reduce costs.