With the various benefits it entails, web conferencing is popular among businesses for many reasons. The commercial sector, however, is not the only area that can benefit from an internet-based communication platform.
Governments can experience the same benefits as private organisations, as well as other unique advantages, through web conferencing technology.
Reducing the need for travel
One of the biggest positive aspects of web conferencing software is that it allows face-to-face meetings without the need for travel. While some meetings must be done in person, others can take advantage of digital communication methods to reduce the time and costs associated with getting from one place to another.
This is as true for governments as it is for businesses. A meeting with an official in the same city isn't that costly or time-consuming to set up, but one with someone on the other side of Australia can take a full day - not to mention the cost of a round-trip flight.
The Australian government does already take pains to make sure that travel for official business is conducted in a financially responsible manner. According to the Department of Finance's Resource Management Guide for Official Domestic Air Travel, any trip by airplane within Australia must be booked at the lowest practical fare available, regardless of airline preference or other non-essential factors.
This is a particularly important measure, as domestic flight prices have been steadily trending upwards, according to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development's Domestic Air Fare Indexes. This trend has held since January 2013 for business class, April 2012 for restricted economy class and October 2011 for full economy class.
In a move to further allay the cost of travel, the department's official policy also notes that web conferencing and other telecommunication methods should be used in lieu of travel if at all possible. This measure is not unique to Australia; US President Barack Obama pushed forward a similar policy in his November 2011 Executive Order 13589 - Promoting Efficient Spending.
With thrift at the forefront of priorities for governments around the world, it is clear that web conferencing technology presents a convenient alternative to the cumbersome method of travelling for meetings.
Opening up government participation
Since the time of Federation, Australia has had a representative form of government. The importance of the people's participation in civic matters is enshrined both in the Australian Constitution and in the words of Sir Edmund Barton, Australia's first prime minister, when he said:
"The organ by which the will of the people is expressed is not necessarily the house of representatives alone."
Surely, Sir Barton did not have web conferencing in mind at the time, but he did envision the involvement of Australia's citizens in the governance of the country. One of the surest ways to do that is by opening up channels of participation, even if its just a way for people to stay connected with national leaders.
Through web conferencing it is possible for parliamentary committees, departments and other governing bodies to give Australians a first-hand look into the daily workings of the government, unfettered by geographic boundaries.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that hosting web conferencing sessions was an ideal way to open up meetings for public participation. The commission wanted to get public input on changes to emergency preparedness procedures at power plants across the country. With stakeholders in 31 states representing 104 nuclear power plants - as well as private citizens, utility workers and local government officials - attendance would have been limited by the size and location of a meeting site.
Through a web conferencing platform, the commission was able to hold its meeting in a public forum - one that allowed for input from participants who joined the session in person and through digital channels.
Other benefits for government bodies
Using web conferencing software for government purposes has a number of additional advantages, including productivity and environmental benefits.
Fly Me to Your Room, a 2012 study on web conferencing in the US government, calculated the savings related to increased productivity gained through digital communication. Half of government workers moving to web conferencing platforms would save US$8 billion each year, as a result of 3.5 additional productive hours each week per employee.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency noted similar savings - Glasgow-based employees gained 18 extra hours of staff productivity by joining meetings in Edinburgh remotely rather than in person.
A study of US and UK-based businesses, conducted by Verdantix, found that a single business can cut 2,271 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over a five-year period through the installation of just four digital conferencing stations. A government moving to increase web conferencing would undoubtedly see a much larger emissions reduction.
With so many benefits, there's no question why more and more governments are embracing the potential of web conferencing services. For more information about these and other teleconference services, contact Eureka today.