In January 2011, transport minister Norman Baker barked an order at his civil servants that no doubt would have made his cost-cutting Government proud: he instructed workers to avail more of teleconferencing and less of travel.
Ignoring the irony of Department for Transport civil servants being told to use public transport less frequently (a command that was probably well received given the state of Britain’s road and rail network), the instruction conveyed a deeper sentiment to save money.
Seemingly unaware of Ouspensky’s theory of six dimensions, Mr Baker said: “I want ‘communication’ to be seen as the fifth dimension. Communicating in smarter ways takes away the need to actually travel in the first place… I’ve written to all policy officials to encourage them to use teleconferencing more”.
Although it may seem bizarre for a transport minister to argue against transport, Mr Baker was right in asserting that teleconferencing can, to a certain extent at least, replace travel in the public sector.
Teleconferencing saves money directly by reducing travel expenses. Nobody is suggesting the Prime Minister ought not to catch a flight to Brussels the next time Euro bigwigs gather to debate the shape of a fruit, but teleconferencing can, for instance, bridge the physical distance between public sector workers when it comes to making everyday decisions.
Conducting more meetings via teleconferencing not only reduces travel expenses, but it can also save time. Quick decision-making can save money, make David Cameron smile and impress the electorate; few people would fail to appreciate the benefits of a quick-thinking, quick-acting public sector.
Teleconferencing works by offering a low-cost solution that covers local, national and international telephone calls. The service enables a number of people located in different parts of the world to access the same conversation at the same time – a conversation that can be recorded for good measure.