A handy Web tool has identified approximately $2 million in savings on travel costs as a result of Oregon agencies taking part in virtual meetings. Called the “Green Meter,” the real-time dashboard also has helped officials keep tabs the impact of reduced travel on the state’s carbon footprint.

The Green Meter calculates total emissions and dollar savings that result from using iLinc, a Web conferencing program. iLinc users enter information on their physical whereabouts, miles of travel eliminated and other criteria. Using the data, the tool then provides a snapshot on the financial and environmental savings achieved.

BroadSoft iLinc Communications Inc. has been measuring the benefits seen by Oregon during the past 18 months through the specific variables collected from users using Green Meter during an iLinc conference session. The company claims Green Meter has showed global iLinc clients have saved $1 billion using Web conferencing during the past four years.

Theme Grenz, program manager of Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services (DAS), said that out of the approximately 64,000 people in the state’s learning management system (LMS), 20 percent use Web conferencing and of those, 10 or 15 percent are iLinc users. But he added that the state hasn’t done its own ROI analysis on the program or the findings of Green Meter yet.

“The iLinc system, the tool, is certainly geared toward that strategic conversation, but the agencies aren’t there yet,” Grenz said. “They just are so wowed by connecting people virtually.”

ILinc is one of a few different Web conferencing tools that state agencies have at their disposal. Grenz said that WebEx, GoToMeeting and Presenter are available, but he encourages use of iLinc because of Green Meter and that iLinc conferencing sessions can be downloaded to the state’s LMS.

Specifically the recorded iLinc Web conferences can be encoded in the Sharable Content Objective Reference Model (SCORM) format, which allows the LMS to track course completion. Along with the Green Meter, downloading the sessions in SCORM aren’t features available with some of the other remote conferencing options Oregon has.

Room for Improvement

Despite iLinc and Green Meter’s usefulness, Grenz felt there was still room for improvement with the technology. He said that having a bit more granular ability to customize just what Green Meter calculates — such as facilities, materials cost and some other things that go into a physical meeting experience — would go a long way toward calculating more accurate savings projections.

In addition, those connecting to the audio portion of a Web conference on iLinc through VoIP can only listen in to a conference, not verbally talk to others on the conference line. Grenz said if that functionality is upgraded, it might make additional Oregon agencies and other states take notice of the technology.

“Each of our agencies kind of work in their own silos,” Grenz said. “When they initially want to come onto iLinc, it’s the conversation about efficiency, reduced travel and the ability to connect with anyone in the state. That’s a big deal.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.