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Friday, 28 September 2012

Video COnferencing Social and institutional impact

Impact on the general public

High speed Internet connectivity has become more widely available at a reasonable cost and the cost of video capture and display technology has decreased. Consequently, personal videoconferencing systems based on a webcam, personal computer system, software compression and broadband Internet connectivity have become affordable to the general public. Also, the hardware used for this technology has continued to improve in quality, and prices have dropped dramatically. The availability of freeware (often as part of chat programs) has made software based videoconferencing accessible to many.
For over a century, futurists have envisioned a future where telephone conversations will take place as actual face-to-face encounters with video as well as audio. Sometimes it is simply not possible or practical to have face-to-face meetings with two or more people. Sometimes a telephone conversation or conference call is adequate. Other times, e-mail exchanges are adequate. However, videoconferencing adds another possible alternative, and can be considered when:
  • a live conversation is needed;
  • non-verbal (visual) information is an important component of the conversation;
  • the parties of the conversation can't physically come to the same location; or
  • the expense or time of travel is a consideration.
Deaf, hard-of-hearing and mute individuals have a particular interest in the development of affordable high-quality videoconferencing as a means of communicating with each other in sign language. Unlike Video Relay Service, which is intended to support communication between a caller using sign language and another party using spoken language, videoconferencing can be used directly between two deaf signers.
Mass adoption and use of videoconferencing is still relatively low, with the following often claimed as causes:
  • Complexity of systems. Most users are not technical and want a simple interface. In hardware systems an unplugged cord or a flat battery in a remote control is seen as failure, contributing to perceived unreliability which drives users back to traditional meetings. Successful systems are backed by support teams who can pro-actively support and provide fast assistance when required.
  • Perceived lack of interoperability: not all systems can readily interconnect, for example ISDN and IP systems require a gateway. Popular software solutions cannot easily connect to hardware systems. Some systems use different standards, features and qualities which can require additional configuration when connecting to dissimilar systems.
  • Bandwidth and quality of service: In some countries it is difficult or expensive to get a high quality connection that is fast enough for good-quality video conferencing. Technologies such as ADSL have limited upload speeds and cannot upload and download simultaneously at full speed. As Internet speeds increase higher quality and high definition video conferencing will become more readily available.
  • Expense of commercial systems: well-designed telepresence systems require specially designed rooms which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fit out their rooms with codecs, integration equipment (such as Multipoint Control Units), high fidelity sound systems and furniture. Monthly charges may also be required for bridging services and high capacity broadband service.
  • Self-consciousness about being on camera: especially for new users or older generations who may prefer less fidelity in their communications.
  • Lack of direct eye contact (as mentioned in Problems), an issue being circumvented in some higher end systems.
These are some of the reasons many systems are often used for internal corporate use only, as they are less likely to result in lost sales. One alternative to companies lacking dedicated facilities is the rental of videoconferencing-equipped meeting rooms in cities around the world. Clients can book rooms and turn up for the meeting, with all technical aspects being prearranged and support being readily available if needed.

Impact on government and law

In the United States, videoconferencing has allowed testimony to be used for an individual who is unable or prefers not to attend the physical legal settings, or would be subjected to severe psychological stress in doing so, however there is a controversy on the use of testimony by foreign or unavailable witnesses via video transmission, regarding the violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[27]
In a military investigation in State of North Carolina, Afghan witnesses have testified via videoconferencing.
In Hall County, Georgia, videoconferencing systems are used for initial court appearances. The systems link jails with court rooms, reducing the expenses and security risks of transporting prisoners to the courtroom.[28]
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), which oversees the world's largest administrative judicial system under its Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR),[29] has made extensive use of videoconferencing to conduct hearings at remote locations.[30] In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) conducted 86,320 videoconferenced hearings, a 55% increase over FY 2008.[31] In August 2010, the SSA opened its fifth and largest videoconferencing-only National Hearing Center (NHC), in St. Louis, Missouri. This continues the SSA's effort to use video hearings as a means to clear its substantial hearing backlog. Since 2007, the SSA has also established NHCs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Baltimore, Maryland, Falls Church, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois.[29]

Impact on education

Global Schoolhouse students communicating via CU-SeeMe, with a video framerate between 3-9 frames per second (1993).
Videoconferencing provides students with the opportunity to learn by participating in two-way communication forums. Furthermore, teachers and lecturers worldwide can be brought to remote or otherwise isolated educational facilities. Students from diverse communities and backgrounds can come together to learn about one another, although language barriers will continue to persist. Such students are able to explore, communicate, analyze and share information and ideas with one another. Through videoconferencing students can visit other parts of the world to speak with their peers, and visit museums and educational facilities. Such virtual field trips can provide enriched learning opportunities to students, especially those in geographically isolated locations, and to the economically disadvantaged. Small schools can use these technologies to pool resources and provide courses, such as in foreign languages, which could not otherwise be offered.
A few examples of benefits that videoconferencing can provide in campus environments include:
  • faculty members keeping in touch with classes while attending conferences;
  • guest lecturers brought in classes from other institutions;[32]
  • researchers collaborating with colleagues at other institutions on a regular basis without loss of time due to travel;
  • schools with multiple campuses collaborating and sharing professors;[33]
  • schools from two separate nations engaging in cross-cultural exchanges;[34]
  • faculty members participating in thesis defenses at other institutions;
  • administrators on tight schedules collaborating on budget preparation from different parts of campus;
  • faculty committee auditioning scholarship candidates;
  • researchers answering questions about grant proposals from agencies or review committees;
  • student interviews with an employers in other cities, and
  • teleseminars.

Impact on medicine and health

Videoconferencing is a highly useful technology for real-time telemedicine and telenursing applications, such as diagnosis, consulting, transmission of medical images, etc... With videoconferencing, patients may contact nurses and physicians in emergency or routine situations; physicians and other paramedical professionals can discuss cases across large distances. Rural areas can use this technology for diagnostic purposes, thus saving lives and making more efficient use of health care money. For example, a rural medical center in Ohio, United States, used videoconferencing to successfully cut the number of transfers of sick infants to a hospital 70 miles (110 km) away. This had previously cost nearly $10,000 per transfer.[35]
Special peripherals such as microscopes fitted with digital cameras, videoendoscopes, medical ultrasound imaging devices, otoscopes, etc., can be used in conjunction with videoconferencing equipment to transmit data about a patient. Recent developments in mobile collaboration on hand-held mobile devices have also extended video-conferencing capabilities to locations previously unreachable, such as a remote community, long-term care facility, or a patient's home.[36]

Impact on business

Videoconferencing can enable individuals in distant locations to participate in meetings on short notice, with time and money savings. Technology such as VoIP can be used in conjunction with desktop videoconferencing to enable low-cost face-to-face business meetings without leaving the desk, especially for businesses with widespread offices. The technology is also used for telecommuting, in which employees work from home. One research report based on a sampling of 1,800 corporate employees showed that, as of June 2010, 54% of the respondents with access to video conferencing used it “all of the time” or “frequently”.[37][38]
Intel Corporation have used videoconferencing to reduce both costs and environmental impacts of its business operations [39].
Videoconferencing is also currently being introduced on online networking websites, in order to help businesses form profitable relationships quickly and efficiently without leaving their place of work. This has been leveraged by banks to connect busy banking professionals with customers in various locations using video banking technology.
Videoconferencing on hand-held mobile devices (mobile collaboration technology) is being used in industries such as manufacturing, energy, healthcare, insurance, government and public safety. Live, visual interaction removes traditional restrictions of distance and time, often in locations previously unreachable, such as a manufacturing plant floor a continent away.[40]
Although videoconferencing has frequently proven its value, research has shown that some non-managerial employees prefer not to use it due to several factors, including anxiety.[41] Some such anxieties can be avoided if managers use the technology as part of the normal course of business.
Researchers also find that attendees of business and medical videoconferences must work harder to interpret information delivered during a conference than they would if they attended face-to-face.[42] They recommend that those coordinating videoconferences make adjustments to their conferencing procedures and equipment.

Impact on media relations

The concept of press videoconferencing was developed in October 2007 by the PanAfrican Press Association (APPA), a Paris France based non-governmental organization, to allow African journalists to participate in international press conferences on developmental and good governance issues.
Press videoconferencing permits international press conferences via videoconferencing over the Internet. Journalists can participate on an international press conference from any location, without leaving their offices or countries. They need only be seated by a computer connected to the Internet in order to ask their questions to the speaker.
In 2004, the International Monetary Fund introduced the Online Media Briefing Center, a password-protected site available only to professional journalists. The site enables the IMF to present press briefings globally and facilitates direct questions to briefers from the press. The site has been copied by other international organizations since its inception. More than 4,000 journalists worldwide are currently registered with the IMF.

Reactions:

2 comments:

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