We've both praised and bashed video- and webconferencing here at treehugger. The truth about how well it bridges the gap between a phone call and an in-person meeting is probably somewhere in-between.
Either way, videoconferencing is enjoying a revival of sorts here in Scandinavia as bandwidth gets better, HD videoconferencing is emerging and companies are being forced to take a harder look at travel policies and carbon impacts. Telia, Sweden's now-privatized telephone company, said it saves 70 million crowns (more than US$10 million) a year by its "green" travel and meeting policy. And the Swedish Road Administration said it has made 50 percent of its major meetings videoconferences. The first step to a green travel policy is determining whether a meeting is actually even necessary - Telia's travel has dropped 30 percent since implementing its policy. (Did the folks in Bali think this over?)
High-definition videoconferencing is now being designed so that participants really feel that their co-workers are sitting across the table from them. These fancy videoconference rooms, from vendors such as Cisco and Tandberg, can cost from between $200,000 and $450,000 per room. Whew! That's actually a lot of tickets from New York to Bali.
But videoconferencing can also be less upscale - a late-model standard Apple laptop with barely any additions can get the job done. Of course, videoconferencing may be better than extensive air travel, but it's not carbon neutral. It would be great to see something like a life-cycle analysis of per-person videoconferencing. What would be even better would be a world where much business travel could be converted into videoconferencing and the true romance of travel could return, guilt free. Find some videoconferencing tips and success stories at Tandberg's seegreennow site.