The Church is often an early adopter of technologies such as video conferencing that enable the Church to fulfill its mission. Church leadership has been using video conferencing since the mid-1990s. The demand for this technology continues to grow and expand.
The first video conferences for the Church were held on rented systems. The success of these meetings led to the installation of systems at headquarters and in various area offices around the world. Church leaders in Salt Lake City work directly with Area Presidents around the world through video conferencing. Other tasks which previously required expensive travel have been replaced by video conference meetings. For example, interviews with potential mission presidents around the world can be conducted via video conferencing.
Many Church departments found that video conferencing helps improve communications while reducing costs. Much like any major global corporation, internal organizations including human resources, the auditing department, and other departments use video conferencing to replace travel for critical meetings. Video conferencing is also used for training and teaching.
Outside of Church headquarters CES uses video conferencing for conducting Seminary and Institute classes in American Sign Language. The Temple Department uses video conferencing on a portable computer to track progress of the Laie temple remodeling project, decreasing the need for travel. Church leaders are using video conferencing to provide interactive priesthood leadership conferences in areas covering significant distances.
We recently deployed a video conferencing system that runs on personal computers to all Church employees. This replaces an earlier pilot program tested by a limited beta audience. We believe that successful video conferencing software can enhance communication not only for Church employees but also for Church leaders across the world. During our testing period, we enlisted a variety of testers with various callings from locations around the world. We included Area Presidencies, mission, district, and stake presidencies, and bishops in our testing. We also included a number of teachers from seminaries and institutes. The results were very encouraging.
After the initial testing, we were successful in integrating LDS Account for authentication. We are currently doing significant testing across two areas in the United States, which will provide the data to allow Church leaders to determine if this system is appropriate to release throughout the world.
Personal video conferencing is only one area of concentration for the Church. We are also engaged in a major upgrade to our entire video conferencing infrastructure. This project is allowing us to revamp our management systems and provide more reliable metrics on utilization. We have revised our video conference dial plan (how the video conference numbers are generated and routed). We have upgraded our video bridge to provide options for higher definition calls. We have revised our system naming convention to make it easier for people to place calls.
As part of this infrastructure project, we are also starting a test of automated scheduling for video conference room systems. Participants in this project agree to use our e-mail calendar system to schedule their video conferences. We provide them a link to configure conferences and automatically connect calls.
All of these projects are driving toward a goal of making it easy to hold video conferences. Successful implementation of video conferencing will make communication easier for employees and for Church leaders. The technology should allow us to decrease the level of intervention by support teams. We want to make it easy to be where you need to be without unnecessary travel.
You can track our progress with video conferencing for leaders at the wiki page.