Virginia puts telework in the fast lane

ROANOKE, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine has established an office to encourage and support the use of teleworking in the private sector and state government.

Karen Jackson will direct the Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, which Kaine created today by executive order. He signed the order on stage at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Innovative Technology Symposium here.

Kaine wants to ensure that Virginia does everything it can to extend and take advantage of its broadband networks. The office will “keep the usage of this technology a point of focus for all state offices,” he said.

Telework can help reduce traffic in Virginia’s metropolitan areas, but the real focus is economics.

Broadband communications makes it possible for people living in rural areas to take advantage of employment opportunities in Northern Virginia and other areas, Kaine said.

Companies in more populous regions also stand to benefit. The competition for talented workers in Northern Virginia in particular can be fierce, but broadband networks would give companies access to a broader workforce.

“We have huge parts of Virginia where people can do those jobs if the technology is in place,” Kaine said.

The governor wants offices to do more than promote telework. He wants them to offer it as an option to employees. Kaine would like to see 20 percent of state workers telecommuting by 2010.

Currently, about 3 percent telework, so that goal requires a significant escalation, he said.

But Virginia is not starting from scratch. “We have some state agencies who have been particularly successful” with telework, Kaine said. “Let them share what they have learned so they can help others.”

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