Technology will remove the need for expensive travel - this has been the promise, the threat, the key selling point for video-conferencing for the last 20-plus years.
The VC industry was saying this back in the day when an ISDN line at 64kbps was fast. It was saying this when leased lines of a megabit per second were starting to become common in enterprises, it's saying it now that connections ten times faster and a hundred times cheaper are commonplace.
And now I see that ANS Group, which styles itself as a technology infrastructure specialist, has issued a statement in response to the UK government's tentative announcement that it might build a high-speed rail link between London and Scotland, maybe, sometime in the next 15 years.
It trashes the idea that business travellers will take advantage of the link (assuming it happens - it's a big if), saying that: "It is questionable how much of an impact the new rail lines will have on businesses when communication technologies are improving at such a pace."
Instead, ANS reckons that: "With business efficiency and the green agenda increasingly on people’s minds and with HD video conferencing technology improving a such a pace, I think that the days of train journeys for meetings are short lived for a large number of people, no matter how quick they are. Indeed, to put it in perspective, for the same £34billion investment we could equip every single business in the UK with a High Definition Video Conferencing unit."
Yet people still travel and always will. Best example: you need to sell widgets. Will you do it by booking your prospect into a video-conferencing session, or will you do it by taking the prospect out to lunch, making them feel good?
Yes, VC technology can reduce travel to some extent, and the further the travel, the greater the incentive to use technology. But on this tiny island, when you can get to and from main business centres at either end of the country within a couple of hours by plane -- or better still, using fast rail links: greener, and you can work as you travel -- the argument doesn't carry a lot of weight.