Battling shrinking budgets and the need to expand services, government departments are turning to the only sensible solution: virtual technology. In the mini case studies below, we take an inside look at the ways three government departments used virtual technology to meet organizational objectives. The department leaders were able to reduce costs, expand the reach of their programs, and improve services through advanced virtual technology and automation.
The Library of Congress (LoC) is the largest library in the world, with more than 158 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 36 million books and other print materials, 3.5 million recordings, 13.7 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 6.7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts.
For decades, the Library of Congress catalogued all these items using a cataloguing standard called AACR (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules). In June 2010, a new standard was released in part as a step toward creating a global standard that could be used in non-English language library systems.
Called RDA (Resource Description and Access) and adopted by the Library of Congress in 2012, this new standard presented LoC with the typical problem faced by any association or government agency that is experiencing growth and change: how do you train a widely dispersed core of professionals, some of whom work for your organization, and many who do not, to bring them up-to-date with new guidelines and standards?
One unit within the Library of Congress that embraced this challenge is FEDLINK, the Federal Library and Information Network. As the formal support and training network for federal libraries in the use of online library/information services, FEDLINK’s training staff began developing a series of webinars to train both US-based and overseas librarians on both the principles of RDA and the RDA tools available through LoC’s Online Computer Library Center. FEDLINK uses iCohere’s webinar services for this on-going training and educational effort.
When companies consider a virtual conference they often think about the time and money it will save. The U.S. Forest Service thought about the greenhouse gas it would save. Responsible for the conservation of 193 million acres of natural resources, the Forest Service is dedicated to ecological sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of those who live on the planet, including its own employees.
So when the time approached for its annual summit, it restructured its physical conference. Only staff within the region where the physical conference was held attended in person, and all other staff were invited to attend virtually. By creating a hybrid conference, the Forest Service saved $300,000 in travel costs, $100,000 in facility costs, and a whole lot of gas…300 metric tons. The conference was hailed as a success by staff everywhere – and by the planet.
Abt Associates launched an online conference program for USAID’s Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (“SHOPS”) called “Access to Finance.” This highly successful, global event was produced without any hotel, travel, or per diem costs. The two-day “Access to Finance” online conference involved over 360 health care entrepreneurs, business professionals, and government representatives from 58 countries. Content included live panels, text chats, pre-recorded presentations, and interactive discussion boards regarding health care financing in developing countries.
Attendance at the conference exceeded expectations, with a single day logging over 8,000 minutes in discussion board activity alone. “Access to Finance” was the latest in a successful five-year series of online conferences produced by Abt Associates for the USAID SHOPS program.
According to the conference manager at Abt Associates, “The developing countries we work with don’t always have the best Internet connectivity, but we’ve made the process seamless.”
The online format enables attendees in many different time zones to receive the same quality content on any device. By specifying a time zone in their personal profiles, all of the site’s content and detailed agendas are listed in each attendee’s local time zone. Additionally, recordings of all live sessions are archived in an online conference hall, accessible on demand for several months after the conference ends.
Another major advantage of the online format is accessibility. An online conference achieves high accessibility in several ways: by captioning all presentations, by adapting the site and presentation interfaces to be navigable without use of a mouse, and by providing web pages that can be processed by text-to-voice readers for those with visual impairments.
Moving to virtual has helped government agencies improve services and reduce operational expenses. Among the many benefits offered with the iCohere Unified Learning System, agencies also gain a support team to overcome the challenges of hiring or training staff to manage the system.
For added benefit, take a look at the recording of the USAID webinar which captures the entire project.