Long embraced as a flexible, convenient, cost and time-saving business tool, in 2020 videoconferencing may need to add “essential” to its descriptive.
The year opened with the World Economic Forum welcoming Greta Thunberg.
The environmental activist issued a stark warning: the world has eight years to halt a 1.5º Celsius rise in global temperatures and avert climate catastrophe.
“With today’s emissions levels, the remaining budget is gone in less than eight years. These aren’t anyone’s views. This is the science,” she warned.
Simultaneously reports emerged from China of the spread of a new, potentially fatal and highly contagious coronavirus strain.
Carbon and corona
The imperative need to cut our collective carbon footprint, put the need to reduce travel – particularly by air and fossil-fuelled car – back on top of the agenda.
The arrival of coronavirus then raised the very real prospect of significant travel restrictions. Whilst no doubt offering a short-term environmental gain, this would, of course, surely cause equally significant business disruption. Or would it?
Like the virus, it turns out the global business community is highly adaptable.
As China closed offices and factories to contain the viral spread, home-bound workers turned to communication and videoconferencing apps.
Vital videoconferencing links
Now, with travel warnings and restrictions in place outside of China, videoconferencing is providing vital links.
Rather than attend in person, some public health experts were able to dial in to a World Health Organisation conference in Geneva at which the latest information on the virus was shared.
Highlighting the many and varied applications of the technology, one Singaporean couple – who had just returned from China – used videoconferencing to livestream their wedding to family and friends.
Schools in Hong Kong have reportedly also responded to shutdowns by using videoconferencing to offer an interactive classroom experience. Sorry kids, it might be an international health scare, but you’ve still got lessons!
Meanwhile shares in some videoconferencing technology vendors have soared in the past month. Chinese cloud-based app Zoom has just recorded usage and its stock rose by 25% over just five days.
This week, following the first UK cases being diagnosed, the UK government declared the virus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
Currently UK travellers are being told by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office not to visit China’s Hubei Province, with the FCO also advising “against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.” Wider travel restrictions seem more than possible.
This raises the question as to what “essential travel” actually means.
Climate activist Thunberg would argue for a more stringent, planet-friendly definition than that implied by the FCO.
The WHO will point to the inherent dangers of spreading a potentially globe-spanning virus. Videoconferencing adds a whole new dimension to the concept of health screening.
Then a financial director might make a different case again.
They could, though, be united in championing videoconferencing for its many and varied benefits.
For Thurnberg and the planet it ticks the carbon reduction box.
For the FCO and WHO, it is strategically useful in preventing virus spread. Less travel and fewer physical face-to-face meeting reduce the risk of contagion.
As for the financial director, it’s not simply about carbon footprints or temporary concerns of viral spread.
Travel budgets can be significantly reduced and employee productivity increased as time and cost-consuming journeys are replaced by instantaneous, high-definition, face-to-face videoconference meetings.
Regardless of how quickly the coronavirus is contained, or the strength of the international community’s response to the climate crisis, videoconferencing is clearly the future technology that’s here today.
A chunky 14% compound annual growth rate is forecast, with the global videoconferencing market set to be worth €20 billion by 2024.
It seems then that those businesses which fail to embrace what is now a commonplace technology risk being left out of the bigger picture.
If you think now is the time for your organisation to benefit from videoconferencing, follow this page for details of Avoira’s specialist solutions and services.