At my work place (and probably yours too) we are constantly encouraged to conduct meetings using teleconferencing. It took a while for my clients (all Government officials) to get used to this, but after a while they realized the merits of it and now ask proactively if it is indeed necessary to be physically present whenever I schedule meetings with them. There are pros and cons to both the approaches – meeting in person and meeting via phone. However, given the current economic environment, teleconferencing in most cases makes a lot of sense. So today, when the G20 summit begins in London, where world leaders from all the major countries converge to discuss the global economy and other issues, “A” posed a question : “Why can’t they conduct this summit via teleconferencing?” Very valid question!! While, I cannot imagine Presidents & Prime-Ministers speaking into star shaped phones with each other given the differences in languages, accents etc.; the idea cannot be completely ruled out. Afterall, even at offices around the world we have a diverse workforce communicating virtually via different media. A sampling from a team that I work with: Americans (white and black), Indians (Southerners and Northerners), Chinese, East Europeans, British, Iranian, Pakistani, Koreans, Jamaicans, Mexicans, Brazilians, French etc.

I agree that all of us who are part of these meetings are in most cases in the same time zones and have a similar work background. The point is, with some thought and planning and a whole lot of technology, it is doable. In the current format all the leaders fly to one city and meet for a couple of days. Tremendous amount of resources expended in making this happen: flights, security, food, lodging, conferencing facilities, the arrangements for the entourage of each world leader (sometimes in the hundreds) and other things which you and me cannot fathom. This leaves a huge carbon footprint and is an economic burden (especially now).

Now imagine this: A world class virtual conferencing setup, with the latest in virtual conferencing (remember Bill Gates being beamed at an IT summit in Malaysia), streaming video which is closed captioned in local languages and the best in IT security enveloping all of this. This need not be a a temporary setup, but a permanent one. To start with it could be in some strategic locations around the world. E.g. Washington DC (for North America), London (for Western Europe), New Delhi (for South East Asia), Moscow (for Eastern Europe), Seoul (for the Orient), Canberra (for Asia-Pacific), Brasilia (for South America), Nairobi (for Northern Africa), Dubai (for the Middle East) and Pretoria (for Southern Africa). Slowly, and steadily, most world capitals will have this set up so that the leaders need not travel across oceans to “discuss” global issues. I know, it sounds too idealistic and too futuristic and the issue of time zones is still there, but the idea of the world being connected by some cables under the sea and some inanimate objects wandering in space sounded equally “futuristic” at some point in time. It is a concept and idea and the technical and geographic issues can be addressed if the creative brains around the world put their minds to work. If the world is flattening for the common man, why should these “uncommon” men be left behind? There is one group who might not be too thrilled about this: The protestors who stand outside the locations of these summits. But then that’s what facebook is for, innit?