Videoconferencing to slash govt airfare bill

THE federal Government will deploy Cisco videoconferencing systems across 20 government sites in an effort to drastically reduce its $280 million domestic airfare bill.

The contract, which will run for four years at a cost of $13.8 million, will be managed by Telstra and will run on its Next IP network.

Mr Tanner said the deployment will help the Government reduce the cost of travel, improve productivity and lower the impact of carbon emissions.

It is unclear how much the Government will save with the Cisco TelePresence system but Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has in the past indicated that he wants to slash at least $15 million from the bill.

“From a finance minister point of view the most important issue is saving money. We currently spend about $280 million a year on domestic airfares across government,” Mr Tanner said.

“The savings we make on airfares alone will pay for this system.”

Mr Tanner is also hoping the roll-out will help retain staff.

“I’m conscience that a lot of people tend to move away from very senior positions both in the public and private sector because of the burden of travel. This will enable us to get better value from people and achieve a better work life balance.”

Mr Tanner said there were robust security measures to make sure sensitive government meetings would not be breached.

“We have a secure phone system that we currently use and TelePresence is at least as secure as that,” he said.

Telstra enterprise and government group managing director David Thodey said the system will run on the Department of Finance’s managed secure wide area network which is being accredited by the Defence Signals Directorate.

The first deployment of the TelePresence system will be in the Commonwealth Parliamentary office at Treasury Place in Melbourne in the coming months, followed by a Parliament House facility in Canberra.

Full deployment will be completed by the end of 2009.

The system will be used for inter-jurisdictional meetings, including Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and ministerial Council meetings, Mr Tanner said.

Cisco Australia managing director Les Williamson said the project was the largest public sector deployment of TelePresence anywhere in the world.

“There are 370 TelePresence units in operation globally now. Cisco has reduced over $200 million in travel globally … and we have measured $70 million in productivity improvement from this,” he said.

There are currently 13 TelePresence units across Australia and New Zealand.

Medicare has already installed a Tandberg videoconferencing system across its state and territory offices as part of the Government’s attempt to curb agencies’ growing flight budgets.

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