Marin IT speaks

A county in California is turning to voice services for managing e-mail, calendar and contact programs.

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"Free to roam"

While government workers in California's Marin County use a full range of mobile devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants and laptops to do their jobs, that's not enough to help everyone, which is why the county's information technology department is turning to voice services.

It's deploying mobile voice solutions from Avaya so that workers can use speech to manage e-mail, calendar and contact programs, and to do other things such as setting up and participating in conference calls.

Remote access systems such as virtual private networks and those that use PDAs and laptops are sensitive to changes that can be made on servers such as security patches, said Barbara Layton, Marin County's telecommunications manager.

The Avaya system provides a way for people to continue to do their job when their other remote access routes are down, she said.

It also appeals to people like elected officials who are not fond of carrying a lot of gadgetry around, she said, so this provides them also with a way to do their business.

But it's also proving to be a good way to get around cost issues.

"We can't roll out cell phones, PDAs and laptops to everyone because of the need to save money, so this is a good way to provide more of a level playing field for those who have to do without, " Layton said. "We have large numbers of social service types and human resources people who have to put in extra work at night to catch up on emails and other things, for example."

These types of voice services are not a large part of Avaya's government sales yet, said Frank LoVasco, the company's mobility solutions practice leader. They are far more common in the commercial sector where the drive to lower costs has a more immediate impact on the bottom line, he said.

However, as they see this is not a bleeding edge technology any more and that there's a proven business case for them, other government agencies will add voice solutions as adjuncts to their other mobile services, LoVasco said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

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