How Green Is Web Conferencing?

These days every product and solution is claiming to be green! Coal is no longer black but green. Logos of oil companies turn green and people drink a lot more green tea.

Web Conferencing has been around for about a decade now but only recently have web conferencing providers realized that they too were saving the planet. Some now even offer CO2 calculators that show you at the end of a webinar session how much CO2 you have saved! So let's "analyze this" (like the movie).


savetheplanet.jpgAs a person dealing with a variety of web conferencing users, I would split web conferences into 2 categories:

  1. Remote "traditional" meetings
  2. New business opportunities

The first category refers to web conference sessions that actually replace meetings that used to involve travelling. Online sales presentations to prospect customers or online collaboration between a small group of participants are perfect examples of such sessions. Essentially if there was no web conferencing technology available, the participants would actually drive or fly to gather in a physical environment and hold their meetings. It is evident this usage of web conferencing is as green as the good old amazon. It is well known that cars and planes are the principal causes behind air pollution and reducing travel results in significant cost savings and pollution decrease.

The impact of web conferencing on environment is not yet visible for the simple reason that despite the buzz organizations are not utilizing web conferencing the way they could and should. The technology was not as reliable and easy-to-use in the past, which explains many companies rarely use their webex systems. When it comes to really working together on some important documents, people still drive across town or take the plane. However there are today more advanced technologies and given a faster and more reliable Internet coverage, it is possible to hold small to large remote meetings without any restrictions. Frost and Sullivans evaluated the penetration of web conferencing technology at around 5% only until last year. With the current economic downturn and the new available technologies, things are about to change! And once CFOs and more importantly individuals experience the efficiency of web conferencing they are going to keep it even beyond the current crisis.

I define the second category of web conference sessions as brand new business opportunities enabled by the technology. There are sessions held these days that do not really replace traditional meetings. If web conferencing technology did not exist, people simply would not have any of those activities. As such, this category does not really bring any environment savings. Let's take a few examples: New form of live online trainings have thrived over the last few years. Stock market traders, for instance, now follow trader gurus on a daily basis from across the globe. Some of omNovia clients have hundreds of "students" following their "courses" for 10 hours a day from Mexico, China, South Africa and even the North Pole. Are they saving the planet from CO2 increase? I don't think people would travel every day thousands of miles to take a course and then return to their homes. Similarly we see new "Marketinars" (Marketing Webinars) that gather, sometimes, thousands of viewers in a web conference room and present their solutions in an interactive environment. Without the web conferencing technologies, these opportunities and businesses would simply not exist. They do not replace physical meetings but create new business openings. 

What is your usage of web conferencing? Is it category 1 or 2?









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This page contains a single entry by Shawn Shadfar published on March 14, 2009 4:49 AM.

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