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GSA to Roll Out Video-chat Centers by May

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The General Services Administration is building more than a dozen virtual meeting rooms in federal buildings and hopes to have them operational later this spring, a senior GSA official said recently.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner in GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services, said the agency is adding 15 additional “telepresence” centers  to the agency’s stable of video-chat hubs, including four in the Washington, D.C., area and 11 others  scattered throughout regional GSA offices.

It’s not a moment too soon, either. The agency, which serves as the federal government’s landlord, is facing some belt tightening, especially for its travel budget.

“We are finding alternative ways to communicate and collaborate,” as a result of the cuts to the travel budget, Davie said last week at a Coalition for Government Procurement forum, according to Federal Computer Week. “One of those will be telepresence.”

Telepresence in federal buildings is not necessarily a new concept, Davie said. In fact, current efforts have focused on coordinating existing centers as well as building new ones.

In October, GSA first announced it would build the telepresence centers featuring high-definition video and audio equipment and state-of-the-art collaboration tools.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, who has been a high-profile sustainability and green IT advocate, said at the time the centers were part of agency efforts to explore new ways to cut costs and improve sustainability.

“This includes incorporating innovative and collaborative technologies like virtual meeting centers to create seamless connections around the world,” she said.  “Availability of virtual meeting technology will help launch our government to the next level of productivity.”

The centers, supported by an AT&T task order, will be available for use by federal agencies at fixed hourly rate beginning in April or May, Davie said.

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