The US General Services Administration (GSA) plans to set up 15 Cisco Telepresence centers to eliminate the need for government employees to travel for in-person meetings; AT&T Government Solutions wins the $18 Million Contract
26 October 2010. In a move that supports the Obama administration’s government-wide effort to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, the General Services Administration (GSA) plans to set up 15 virtual meeting centers across the United States to eliminate the need for government employees to travel for in-person meetings. The centers should be operational by February 2011.
AT&T Government Solutions business unit will develop and manage the Cisco TelePresence solution through an estimated $18 million task order under GSA’s Networx Enterprise contract which expires on 31 May 2017.
Martha Johnson, GSA Administrator, told reporters:“This is a striking upgrade to what GSA has had before.We’re going to get people off airplanes and into teleconferencing.” Johnson added that that the telepresence initiative could have wider influence across government. “This is the office of the future for GSA. We’re modeling a new kind of workplace,” she said.
Johnson added: “As the federal government’s workplace solutions expert, GSA is exploring new ways to create a more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable government for the American people. This includes incorporating innovative and collaborative technologies like virtual meeting centers to create seamless connections around the world. Availability of virtual meeting technology will help launch our government to the next level of productivity.”
AT&T will initially deploy 15 telepresence rooms at GSA office locations across the United States, creating a Managed Network Service (MNS) Telepresence. The telepresence rooms will be installed at the 11 GSA regional headquarters and 4 Washington, D.C. area locations, and will be available for use by the GSA and other federal agencies.
The solution will be based on Cisco’s TelePresence System 3010/3000 for GSA sites requiring six participants per room, and its TelePresence System 3210/3200 for GSA sites requiring 18 participants per room, according to the GSA.
GSA spokesman Robert Lensino said: “The GSA already uses teleconferencing to conduct virtual meetings, but the solution is operator-assisted and doesn’t have the same enhanced features that a Telepresence solution offers. … If agencies have their own Telepresence solutions, they can interoperate with the new virtual centers if they can deliver and receive 1080p video resolution and support H.323/H.264.”
The GSA MNS Telepresence offering will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to all federal agencies. Regional meetings, training, inter-agency planning, crisis management, partner and supplier discussions will be scheduled utilizing this service and paid for on an hourly basis. This GSA innovation allows federal agencies to utilize the convenience of the AT&T Telepresence Solution with a pay as-you-use model through the GSA, thereby avoiding individual agency start up costs.
The task award provides a complete turnkey implementation of AT&T Telepresence Solution, which includes design, planning, deployment, concierge, maintenance and on-going support; network connectivity and transport; room-system hardware; and network-based inter-company bridging, at 15 GSA locations nationwide.
In addition, GSA will have access to AT&T Business Exchange – a “meet-me” business-to-business global collaboration technology that allows multiple companies and organizations in different locations to connect to one another. To improve efficiencies and reduce expenses, GSA and federal agencies can now meet face-to-face over telepresence with suppliers and partners on an encrypted link. Many of AT&T’s Business Exchange clients provide services to the GSA today.
Martha Johnson concluded: “We are being aggressive about virtual work. Some private sector companies have been using it and seeing very dramatic results, and we would like very much to see these results ourselves.”
The move helps the GSA meet its telework goals and may provide a cost savings if employees think twice before booking a flight or hotel, Johnson added.
GSA manages 9,600 federally owned or leased buildings – more than 350 million square feet of real estate. In addition, the agency provides and manages a wide range of services and supplies to 400 federal agencies, bureaus, and commissions, and over one million federal employees and contractors.
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