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.