Emergency and crisis management, budget optimization, internal efficiency optimization, local governance empowerment: these are the main areas where online conferencing has proved to be more helpful for both citizens and public administrators.
In 2012, the superintendent of a school district of a county in Pennsylvania had to fire one fifth of his workforce and close three schools because of a multimillion deficit. He was not alone: 500 other superintendents were forced to take similar measures in the same period. More in general, the public action at all levels has been heavily hit by the necessity of cutting down on budgets in the last few years.
This does not come as a surprise: the necessity of implementing severe budget reductions is a long-term trend that has been constantly troubling governments all over the world since the beginning of this century. According to an estimation of Calculated Risk (http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/) , over 600.000 jobs were lost in the US administration for this reason during Obama’s presidency only.
How can the government get by during hard times? The solution is technology. And among the available technologies, online conferencing is the most promising, as it allows the administration to improve performances at lower costs. Have a look at the bills to understand this point: today, a good conferencing server like one of R-HUB`s TurboMeeting suite (http://www.rhubcom.com) is available on the market for less than 2000$. A public servant, for much more.
How can online conferencing enhance the public action once put on the field? I have counted six main areas at least:
Emergency preparation: Webinars are a great and inexpensive way to prepare and train citizens to a catastrophic event. This reduces damages, panic and havoc when the event comes along.
Distance work: Clerks are able to communicate with supervisors and chefs in just one click, with substantial reduction of time and money wastes.
Crisis management: Information can be shared in real time and at zero cost. Unities on the field are able to keep constant contact with the central command at any stages of the operations.
Training and distance learning. Especially education could really profit from online conferencing. In rural areas, pupils will stay comfortably home, as their classrooms become virtual and the need of physical buildings to host those decreases. Parents will save a lot of time and money, and superintendents as well.
Planning and collaboration: In traditional bureaucracy, most of the time is lost in internal communication and coordination. Virtual conferences speed up bureaucratic processes and greatly help teams to fulfil tasks, like taking budget decisions or working together on projects.
Local governance: For officials, the personal interaction with citizens becomes a real possibility through virtual conferences, while access to officials is much easier for citizens. In this way, administrators can hear the citizens’ voice, set their actions consequently and build trust.
In conclusion, municipalities, local and state government can profit from virtual conferencing in several ways. The benefits are also for citizens: they will enjoy a greater ease of access to public officers and services, while costs to bear will be fewer and, consequently, the amount of taxes to pay less.