The Federal Government will look at expanding the number of its telepresence sites across the country, as use of the service by state and Commonwealth offices is approaching capacity.
The Federal Government allocated $13.8 million in 2009 for the roll-out of 20 Cisco TelePresence units across Australia, in Commonwealth offices, Prime Minister and Cabinet offices, Parliament House and state government offices. Since then, the government has expanded the roll-out to 36 units. Including $4.6 million in state and territory funding, $18 million has been spent deploying the Cisco-Telstra solution.
Speaking in Budget Estimates last week, the Australian Government Information Management Office's (AGIMO) first assistant secretary, John Sheridan, said that since the telepresence capability had been established, there had been 1800 meetings and about 3343 hours of use. Sheridan calculated this to have saved government agencies a total of $26 million in travel costs, over double the $12 million estimate the government gave in October last year.
While the government was pleased with the popularity of the system, its high usage was also causing problems, due to the limited number of Telepresence suites to go around. Department of Finance and Deregulation secretary David Tune said that the government was about to hit "capacity constraint".
"It is getting a lot of use and there are peaks, as you would expect. Because it is used a lot by Commonwealth and state officials for meetings ... that creates bottlenecks sometimes, leading into a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting or some other big ministerial meeting, for example," he said.
"We have just done some analysis in the last couple of days, suggesting we are starting to come up against some capacity constraints. So, we will start looking, now, at whether there is scope to expand the service."
Tune said that any expansion would incur an upfront cost and AGIMO would need to make a business case for it, to the government.
"We have now exceeded the gains from that original business case. We now need to go back and rethink and reassess, but, I think, we have come to the point where the next step is a reasonable size expansion of the service, given that it is so popular and cost-effective."