And I Think To Myself, What A Virtual World

By Chuck Brooks

The world is going virtual and is being supported by a myriad of new and exciting technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and exponential connectivity to both people and objects. The virtual communication trend is rapidly expanding across industry, academia, and government.

There are a multitude of benefits for virtual connectivity. Most institutions of higher learning are offering students and alumni the opportunity to learn online in subjects ranging from business, history, physics, to psychology. Many vocational organizations and certifying groups now offer the ability to do coursework from home computers. Virtual learning can also be monitored, is agile, and does not require an investment in room and board.

Harvard, MIT, The University of Chicago, Princeton, Yale, and other Ivy League schools are increasingly involved in online education. Eventually, students will be able to visit Ancient Rome and study other eras in history through virtual and augmented reality libraries and explore courses via wearables. While there will always be a role for students attending universities and colleges in the near future, it is likely the not-so-distant future of academia will be virtual as everything we do in our lives become more automated and remote.

Collaborative and interactive work environments are also trending in industry. Many workers operate from their homes and telecommute. Offering a virtual employment capability allows for a more flexible, adaptive and productive workforce. Virtual business is integral to the emerging “Gig Economy” being reinforced by the millennial generation. Virtual communications combined with virtual reality will become integrated into business applications. It can also serve as an outlet of entertainment; and already is in gaming at attractions such as “Soaring” at Disney World. The analytical firm Digi-Capital forecasts Augmented/Virtual Reality revenue to hit $120 billion by 2020.

Image Source:  Digi-Capital

Image Source: Digi-Capital

Virtual business is also indispensable to consulting as it can cross geographical boundaries and allows for 24/7 interaction between vendors, clients, and business partners.  I recommend an excellent book on this subject that explores these trends in depth by John P. Girard called “Business Goes Virtual: Realizing the Value of Collaboration, Social and Virtual Strategies.”

There are integral common communication elements that characterize the emerging virtual world; connectivity, collective engagement, access, and information sharing. Those communication elements in some cases can be quantified and are conducted throughout the digital realm.

Some of these virtual communication elements or features for business can include:

  • Digital communications through email, text, botnets, avatars, and social media.

  • Digitization, access, and analytics of pertinent information and records.

  • Secure virtual conferencing allowing for content driven agendas. With virtual conferences there are also significant cost savings because of savings on fees, travel, hotels, and meals.

  • Virtual Training and “Table Top” exercises with resilient operational backup, record keeping, and coordination.

In the public sector, virtual government is both growing and evolving in terms of providing citizens services with accessibility to .gov websites and data sources.  Much of the communications relating to health or social security benefits are now being automated by federal agencies. Many of the best practices are being adapted from the private sector where technologies have already been proven for communications, and data analytics. Sharing software programs are also highly developed and tested in industry that can bolster government inter-communications and citizen outreach.

Last week, The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the  launch of two new interagency digital communities. The first community will focus on artificial intelligence for citizen services and another community on virtual or augmented reality. The is the start of more digital citizen services initiatives to come.

The way government does business can change via virtual government. Virtual procurements can offer equal access and accessibility for vendors.  The virtual government procure landscape could also be more transparent and lessen protest on contracts and guard against cronyism or potential conflicts of interest.

In terms of homeland security, virtual government can enhance resilience in time of emergencies and support interoperable communications for law enforcement and first responders. Virtual fusion centers can be used to enable state and local communicates to better protect and serve their communities by providing virtual situational awareness and facilitating information sharing.

The list of digital communication applications is seemingly as vast as the X’s and O’s that comprise codes. Healthcare, finance, entertainment, and many other verticals, including the expanding Internet of Things, are now being immersed in the virtual communication trends. As the communication matrix becomes more complex and ubiquitous, the challenges and opportunities for academia, industry and government will grow in the new virtual world.

About Chuck Brooks

Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as the Vice President for Government Relations & Marketing for Sutherland Global Services.  Chuck is also an Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Technology Partner network, as Chairman of CompTIA’s New and Emerging Technology Committee, as a Fellow oat The National Cybersecurity Institute, and serves on Boards to several prominent public and private companies and organizations.

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