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Departmental Video Conferencing

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will set a target to increase the use of video-conferencing by his Department to reduce the need to travel to meetings. (195881)

DEFRA is working hard to identify where we can reduce the need to travel, through the use of video conferencing and other alternatives, and when travel is necessary, to encourage staff to make the most sustainable choices.

We are working with our IT strategic supplier IBM and Tandberg to install the infrastructure necessary to make available the next breed of video conferencing services based around IP rather than ISDN telecommunication protocols and fixed v/conf studios. This will improve the availability, quality and mobility of the v/conf service and make it a more attractive alternative option for staff to choose when travelling to meetings would normally be required.

But we recognise it is not a panacea for all meetings. Initial contacts and team building often require physical, face-to-face meetings to ensure good team relationships are built before moving to electronic meeting spaces. We also recognise that there are other technologies that can impact on the need for meetings—e.g. a quick teleconference session can often be appropriate and sufficient if there is a single issue to resolve among a small number of people.

We will also be setting up SharePoint team spaces to provide a repository of shared resources, discussion threads and wikis etc. that should reduce the need for meetings in the first place and support the move of the core department to a more project-orientated structure.

DEFRA is looking to these new technologies to assist in meeting its new travel targets to:

reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles by 15 per cent. by 2011-12 (from a 2005-06 baseline)

achieve a new fleet emissions average of 130g/k by 2010

reduce carbon dioxide emissions from air travel by 5 per cent. by 2008-09 (from a 2006-07 baseline)

achieve an overall reduction in the amount of travel undertaken across the core-department

More specifically we will look to see an increase in take-up and use of the new v/conf services following implementation of the new IP infrastructure, though a target has yet to be set.

You may also wish to know that DEFRA worked with IBM to produce a White Paper on methods and techniques for assessing and reducing the carbon footprint of office IT services entitled “Environmentally aware governance of the distributed IT infrastructure”. This has now received two awards—a Gold Award from BCS link:

and the European Green IT Summit Infrastructure Project of the Year award, see link:

at the same event IBM also won the award for European Green IT Supplier of the Year. So we are at the forefront of work taking forward the Green IT agenda.