Connecting Illinois: how one state shares info
Home to more than 12 million people and several major universities, Illinois also boasts one the nation’s most advanced video networks. The Illinois Video Network (IVN) connects 39 sites, including state agencies and institutions of higher learning, to enable videoconferencing uses that range from administrative meetings to police cadet training.
“Videoconferencing has become one of the most effective tools in governmental communication. It not only propels the state into the next century, but helps reduce travel expenses, enhance training programs and lets colleges and universities establish distance learning networks,” says Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar.
In 1991, Illinois started its video network with locations in Springfield and Chicago, where the majority of the state’s governmental offices are located. To expand to the current 39 sites that integrate voice, video and data, the state teamed up with Ameritech, Chicago.
In addition to the sites in Springfield and Chicago, seven state organizations belong to the network and use videoconferencing in the following ways:
* Western Illinois Consortium (11 sites) uses the network for distance learning to match college curricula with students across the region;
* The Illinois Department of Transportation (10 sites) has a subnetwork on the IVN, allowing engineering staff to collaborate on everyday projects without having to travel across the state. The videoconferencing rooms are also used for administrative purposes;
* The Illinois State Police Forensics Lab (nine sites) uses the network for training classes on biology, chemistry, DNA, firearms, latent prints and microscopy. Some of the forensic lab locations also have been used for hearings and deposition;
* Western Illinois University (two sites) saves-travel time when it uses the network for observations of student teachers. The system allows professors to evaluate each student teacher without traveling to another school.
* The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (two sites) has-a-link between its offices in Deerfield and Springfield. The network is used primarily for administrative purposes and staff training;
* The Illinois State Board of Education (two sites) averages about 15 hours per week using the video net, work for administrative meetings and training; and
* Eastern Illinois University (one site) uses its link to the video network for administrative board meetings and educational committee meetings.
Users of the network report saving thousands of dollars in travel expenses. The Illinois State Board of Education saved an estimated $16,000 in travel costs during the first 60 days of use, while the State Police Forensics Lab saved money on lab space it did not have to build since teaching could be done via videoconferencing.
“The training center in Carbondale houses a tracker camera that allows the instructor to walk around the room while speaking with the camera automatically following his every move,” says Bob Gonsowski, laboratory director for the Southern, Illinois Forensic Science Centre, which has the capacity to train 40 people on site.
The center looked at videoconferencing as an option to not only improve administrative functions, but to make the training that is available to students in Carbondale also accessible to those in Rockford or Peoria.
The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), which oversees videoconferencing for the state, reports the number of sites has doubled each year, and by 1997, the Illinois Video Network is expected to grow to more than 100 sites.
CMS is working with the Illinois Department of Coffections to develop a nine-site wide area network, which will be used for in,service training, distance learning, administrative conferencing, telemedicine and potentially for court arraignments.
Also, the Illinois State Police Academy is expected to add videoconferncing sites to link academy training sites in Des Plaines and Chicago.