Study: Video conferencing could save $19B a year

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King

In Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal Video conferencing could save $19B a year

A study sponsored by AT&T Inc. and conducted by the Carbon Disclosure Project estimates that skipping business trips and using video conferencing instead could save $19 billion a year.
The study also said that by 2020 companies in the US and UK that have more than $1 billion in revenue could cut CO2 emissions equal to taking about 1 million vehicles off the road for a year.

If the government confiscated that, it would *almost* be enough to pay for a small US high-speed rail system. However, if business travelers teleconferenced, we might not need intercity HSR. Clearly teleconferencing is getting better. (Although institutions are lagging individuals, I regularly video-conference with my mom, and managed my students from the UK in 2006-07 successfully, I cannot get any number of bureaucratic institutions to get this working without cajoling). Any opportunity to avoid the hassle and headache of most business travel would be greatly appreciated. As Wayne Gretzky said “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
full study here: Telepresence Revolution (the model looks fairly simple, but the general point obtains under any number of reasonable assumptions).

3 thoughts on “Study: Video conferencing could save $19B a year

  1. I can never decide which represents the greater waste and inefficiency: teleconferencing or business travel.
    We have teleconferences very frequently, yet somehow still lose 15% of every meeting to technical problems.
    Of course traveling to meetings involves even more dead time, but those meetings occur less frequently and generally have more productive outcomes.


  2. Any thoughts on reasons for lagging institutions? It seems to me they would have a stronger financial incentive than individuals to embrace the technology, however the trend is opposite. Do institutions have less need for individual to individual teleconferencing (which is more usable than large meeting teleconferencing)? Are IT departments simply too risk-averse?


  3. These institutions (e.g. MnDOT and CTS spring to mind) are in transportation themselves, and while these are advanced for the transportation sector, are not technologically advanced in general. This is not to say they don’t use video-conferencing ever, it is just not standard procedure or the first thing that jumps to mind there. There is not a webcam on everyone’s desktop. Telepresence requires going to a particular room or meeting. Employees don’t use Skype or IM regularly. There are any number of reasons for MnDOT to be this way (it is a state agency, bound by an archaic state bureaucratic information technology mindset). CTS I think just doesn’t get out as much as it should, and hangs around with MnDOT (and USDOT) and in-person meeting oriented types too much.
    Also, telepresence standards are still tricky. You have to be logged on for it to work, so requires some planning. Maybe a standard will emerge (e.g. FaceTime) that enable telepresence to be as easy as a phone call.
    It might be public sector vs. private sector, or monopoly vs. competitive at work here.


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