Archive for the ‘Video Conferencing’ category

How to Jump from the stone ages to the future through Video Conferencing

May 3rd, 2017

The wise use of IT technologies like video conferencing will allow India to deliver basic services to the population of over 600.000 remote rural villages in the next future.

In India, 75% of the population lives in rural villages and 95% do not speak English but local languages that sometimes are as different from each other as English and Chinese. Despite the fact that the Indian road network is the second largest in the world, its poor state makes communications between villages and towns difficult. Rural roads are generally made of clay, narrow and potholed. Therefore, they are unable to assure travelers proper travelling conditions especially during the season of monsoon, when they turn into impassable rivers of mud. The lack of good connections with the urban areas and the rest of the country is probably the main reason why rural Indian is still isolated and lost in its ancestral traditions.

Governance in such conditions can become an extremely tough exercise.  Consider, for example, the problem to deliver elementary education to each of the 317 million children living in rural India in 2008: it means to be able to take books, professors and schools in communities that sometimes still live in the jungle in the same conditions of the stone ages. Ensuring proper levels of services as tax collection, vital recording, healthcare and infectious diseases prevention are the other hot issue that the Indian government has been trying to address since the day of the independence.

The traditional approach should be to take roads to villages. Undoubtedly, the investment of the government on the road network has been massive: the Indian towns are now all connected through national highways that have reached 100.000 km of extension, and the value of the infrastructure industry was estimated  over 19 billion US$ in 2016.

However, IT technology in general and virtual conferencing in particular, has been proved to be able to provide India with a faster and more inexpensive solution. Digital roads cost less and are quicker to implement than traditional roads, and devices as mobiles and tablets can be connected also via wireless and satellite bandwidth.  Product like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com)  servers allows local communities to have easily and inexpensively communication networks through which it is possible to take to citizens some basic services as education and meetings with a distant public officer. Smartphones are decisively less expensive than a car, so that the cost of e-governance is decisively less burdensome than the traditional approach to take police stations, schools and post offices everywhere.

The considerations above well explain why the Indian government has recently invested a lot in IT infrastructures. Nationwide connectivity has now reached more than 600.000 villages: 670.000 km of fiber has been deployed  across the country, and the program Village Resource Centre program has mobilized ISRO’s satellite technology.

The outcomes of this effort have been a fast increase in e-governance programs of Indian states. In Karnataka, the Land Register was able to take back land registration from local notables through a project called Bhoomi, the core of which is an application in visual basic. In Punjab, it has been implemented a gateway to deliver over 120 public services through the net . In Kolkata, over 300 police local stations are now connected with their command through WAN. In this way, an important task as criminal tracking has been enhanced.

But one of the most remarkable examples of how IT technology has helped India is at the level of the central government and the judiciary system. In a country as large as Europe, video conferencing is the only way to assure fast and reliable one-on-one meetings to politicians, high officers and judges in most occasions. On the other hand, the new way to meet has become quickly viral to the whole Indian state apparatus through a classical top-to-bottom process; at the point that now video conferencing has become a daily tool also for local government. Delveer Bhandari, chief justice of Mumbai High Court, stated in an interview that video conferencing is regularly used among the judges of the court.  In Maharashtra, a good share of the communication between the central government and districts has shifted to video conferencing.

India is an interesting example of how IT technology in general, and video conferencing in particular, can offer great solutions to address problems that are considered to be of difficult, not to say impossible, solution. Even if it is tough to foresee the way the technological development will take of next years, India shows that this much is true, e-governance will play a more and more important role in assuring citizens adequate public services.

In conclusion, examples like India’s e-governance programs are very interesting to study, as they show us how technology could disrupt also the western bureaucracies and the way the western governments deliver public services to their citizens in the near future.

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From Third World to World Class – Through Virtual Conferencing

May 2nd, 2017

How new technologies in general,  and video conferencing in particular, can address many traditional problems of third world countries in less than no time.

There are some basilar services that are taken  for granted in the US  or western Europe,  but that are often missing in a town ofthe third world, like uninterrupted electricity or water supplies. In Nepal, for example, people are extremely pleased when they get continual electricity supplies for eight hours a day. In most African countries, the fulfillment of a simple task as going to the post office can be extremely challenging and time-demanding due to the poor state of roads. In the Philippines, the state of toilets in public schools is so poor that students meet great difficulties in doing their business in the bathroom.

However, the situation of public services has been slowly improving even in the poorest areas of the world thanks to technology in the last few years. The combination of mobiles, mobile apps and virtual conferencing has proved to be a great strategy to tackle many problems connected to distance, bad transportation and lack of a proper network to dispatch electricity. In this way, implementing good levels of governance become possible even in the worst possible conditions.

A smart example of the results that a wise use of technology allows government to obtain is given by mSurvey, a program launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve democracy and participation. Being 65 % covered by rainforests, this African country has the typical problem of difficult transportation that makes travelling and consulting people extremely difficult. The solution has been to develop a mobile app though which citizens can obtain information about budget meetings. In this way, they can vote online and check what was decided simply by using their mobiles. They can also remind local authorities of their commitments and press them to take actions to fulfill people’s needs.

The success of MSurvey is not surprising. In many areas of the third world, it is easier to make a mobile work than continual electric light or water supply. On the other hand, a virtual conferencing product like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) allows a charity or a municipality to implement a local consultation system with the population safely and inexpensively. Being plug and play devices, the servers of the TurboMeeting suite do not need a devoted IT team; they are compatible with the existing main operating system for mobiles, and their graphic interface is optimized for small screens.

In Brazil, the State of Rio Grande do Sul has gone even further. Through the joint use of their mobiles and video conferencing, citizens can actively co-design solutions to address specific problems of their town or village. The “Governor asks” initiative has allowed more than 60.000 people to submit proposals and feedbacks and even face-to-face meetings with politicians and state officials.

In Kerala, a program called Akshaya makes it easy for citizens to obtain elementary services or documents like their driving license through their mobiles. In Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana and Zambia on Track enables students to report teachers that do not show up for class through a text message.  This mobile app has been developed with the aid of the World Bank with the purpose is to improve public services through a bigger citizen involvement.

What is the secret of this new success of virtual conferencing? In my opinion, the reasons are three: the easiness of implementation, the inexpensiveness, and the use of a common device like the mobile to vehiculate it. While it is difficult for many people to access to facilities like proper housing, mobiles are really at everybody’s reach. And implementing a system of consultation through video conferencing is certainly easier, quicker and cheaper than building roads, bridges and infrastructures.

These are only some few examples of how technology in general, and video conferencing in particular, can be used to improve people’s life. If you wish to learn more about this topic, you are going to find more resources on R-HUB`s blog at http://www.rhubcom.com

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More connected and more efficient: The transformation value of Video Conferencing for Public Services

April 30th, 2017

This model story from UK demonstrated the transformational value of video conferencing for public services. Through a modernized video service, it has been possible to transform the UK Criminal Justice System by allowing the creation of strategic partnerships across Justice and the delivery of a brand-new service.

With over 400,000 users, 1000 operational processes and 100 IT systems,  the UK criminal justice System was afflicted by excessive complexity, high costs, slowness and  chronic lack of efficiency. Budget optimization considerations led the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, the body in charge of supporting criminal justice agencies in providing an improved service to the public, to conduct a survey in order to formulate a proposal to the government on the possible measures to take to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

The results of the survey were quite surprising. At root of the problem there was a lack of connection and coordination among the several offices and agencies that were involved in the delivery of the criminal service. The state of disconnection and lack of standardization of the existing video service network made the situation even worse.

The solution was the adoption and implementation of a single – and updated – video conferencing system.  This automatically led to a strong increase in connection and thus communication among the several actors involved in criminal justice. The final outcome was the formation of strategic partnerships across the Criminal justice system that made it possible to deliver a less expensive and more efficient service to the public.

Criminal Justice is just one of the public sectors that can largely profit from video conferencing. Healthcare, crisis management, national and local security, chambers of commerce, education: these are just some few areas where video conferencing has been applied with remarkable success in the last few years.

Despite the huge diversity of the services we mentioned above, the reason of the success of video conferencing is always the same, interconnection. Faster and cheaper communication among public officials leads immediately to an increase in efficiency and a decrease of costs. This is nothing surprising, if we reflect on the nature of labor-intense industry of public bodies. Therefore, the quality of human interactions and human communication is the real key-factor to monitor in the public sector.

Another point to consider is that today video conferencing has become safe, secure, easy-to-implement, and inexpensive. A server of R-HUB`s suite TurboMeeting http://www.rhubcom.com for example, costs less than 2000$ and allows conferences up to 3000 participants. Maintenance and upgrading are managed remotely, so that a devoted IT team is not necessary any longer.

In conclusion, video conferencing will play a key-role in redesigning and remodeling public services next years, owing to its capability to decrease costs while increasing communication and coordination and, consequently, efficiency.

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6 Little known ways to quickly Enhance the Public action through Online Conferencing

April 24th, 2017

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.

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Why Video Conferencing is going to disrupt Public Service Delivery?

April 18th, 2017

Faster decisions, greater efficiency, lower cost and big time savings: these are just some few benefits of the utilization of video conferencing in public service delivery.

In 2013, the first video conference of local government officials was ushered In Rwanda: over thirty participants were able to interact with the Minister for Local Government through high resolution monitors and address a large set of issues concerning local governance. This is just one of the benefits that Rwanda had from the fiber optic network that had been rolled out throughout the country in the past years.

Like most modern states, Rwanda is afflicted by chronic lack of staff because of budget limitations and, before video conferencing introduction,public officials had to spend a lot of time by travelling from remote places to the capital to attend important meetings that were vital to coordinate the public action.

Consider that joining a distant meeting in a country where roads are in bad conditions takes not only money, but a lot of time. The result was that the government was blocked in a deadlock loop: taking care of locals would have implied to give up on spending time in meetings in order to give public officers the necessary time to manage the delivery of public services. But this would have caused a serious lack of coordination of the governmental action at any level; on the other hand, maintaining effective central coordination would have affected the efficacy of the public action at local level, as it would have drained important human resources to the necessary meetings in the capital.

The classical way-out would have been hiring new local staff; but this solution was precluded by budget constraints.

Video conferencing solved the problem brilliantly. Today, local officers do not need to spend days to travel to the capital for their meetings any more. Rounds of virtual conferences assure the necessary coordination of the governmental action at any level, and the amount of time that is saved in this way can be more profitably employed to help locals. But the most interesting aspect of this innovative solution is that no new staff has been necessary; in other words, through video conferencing Rwanda has been able to optimize the workforce, while respecting budget constraints.

Rwanda’s story tells us how much disruptively video conferencing can impact the delivery of public services. If a little African country was able to change the management procedures so deeply, what could happen in western states (for example, in Europe), where video conferencing is still almost unknown in public offices? Another point is that this technology is not only about saving time and money. In the future, video conferencing could deeply affect many public services and facilities, like healthcare and hospitals, especially when it will be integrated with the virtual and augmented reality.

Cost considerations won’t stop these silent revolutions. Today, the price of an on premise web server ( the type of technology that suits the public service needs best), for example one of R-HUB`s (http://www.rhubcom.com) suite TurboMeeting , starts from 995$ only. Consider that a cheap car costs in Italy at least 10,000 $. Another way to say that video conferencing technology has become within everyone’s reach.

In conclusion, video conferencing will certainly disrupt the public service next years, as this technology offer a good solution to many managerial problems that vary from human resource optimization to the need to respect budget constraints. The necessary technology is already available, and at an inexpensive price.

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