What is “Telecooperation”?
Telecooperation means using computers and electronic networks (for example the Internet) to connect with and work with other people and organisations “at a distance”.
How does Telecooperation work?
Telecooperation starts with electronic mail (email). Once you know someone’s email address you can exchange messages with them at any time of your choosing, for a very small cost per message, and with a high degree of reliability – and both parties can keep track of their exchanges, since both can retain a copy of what has been sent and received. Telecooperation can be further enhanced by bringing in new capabilities, the main ones today being:
- Online discussion or conferencing, so that a group or three or more people can exchange messages easily. For very small groups this can be done by simply using the “copy addressees” facility of each person’s email service, while larger groups can establish centralised “discussion list” or more sophisticated “computer conferencing” facilities.
- Information sharing, which today means mainly the World Wide Web – instead of sending documents and information to each other, each person places pages of information on the web so that others can find and use them. Like email and discussion groups this means that the information can be made available anywhere world wide in a few seconds or minutes and at a marginal cost per page.
- Video conferencing, using the Internet or other networks to hold live, person-to-person or group meetings without the need for travel.
- Computer data and application sharing, in which people in an online meeting can actively share, manipulate and contribute data using application tools such as spreadsheets, databases, graphics and drawing “at a distance”.
The first three of these (email, conferencing and information sharing across the World Wide Web) can be done at a very small marginal cost, assuming that the people concerned already have a computer. Satisfactory video conferencing and application sharing currently require additional technology.
“Open” and “Closed” Groups
“Open” telecooperation occurs when people connect with each other across the open Internet “in public” – individuals are free to join or leave the group at will. The open Internet supports many thousands of public discussion areas (email lists or newsgroups) in which people can meet others who share similar interests, exchange views and information, and help each other.
Closed telecooperation groups may be informal networks of people who have agreed to work together and to adopt some common approaches, so that newcomers have to commit to the group’s agreed processes in order to join, or they may be more formally linked – for example the employees in a company, or the members of a professional body.
Its becoming quite commonplace for networks to be formed on the open Internet and then become more formalised, either to create an enterprise, to pursue a particular project, to jointly market their individual capabilities, to lobby for a political action – any human purpose in fact.
Who can benefit from Telecooperation?
In short, anyone can benefit from telecooperation. These are just examples:
- Companies can gain productivity improvements through more effective access by everyone to current information; they can gain cost reductions because telecooperation methods are dramatically cheaper than traditional communications methods; they can enhance customer service and customer relationships by making it easier for customers and staff to connect with each other.
- Self employed individuals can gain great benefits by participation in appropriate networks, the advantage being that online networking can be done at any time and at a very low cost in both time and money, compared with conventional networking through attendance at meetings, lunches, conferences etc.
- Unemployed or underemployed people can connect to work opportunities.
- Membership organisations can enhance communications with and among members who don’t have the time to attend meetings; members can participate in the affairs of the organisation regardless of where they live or their pattern of work.
- Community organisations (including local and national governments) can engage in active dialogue with a much broader cross section of their communities than is possible using conventional methods.
- Policy developers can gain wider responses to proposals and ideas, and can engage in public or private debate with interested parties at a much lower cost in time and money.
Telecooperation and Telework
Telework becomes appropriate for a much higher proportion of people and jobs when an organisation is effectively networked, and the managers and staff have developed telecooperation skills. For individual teleworkers, telecooperation methods provide enhanced communication with colleagues, plus the ability to connect with professional and other networks of people, regardless of their home location.
Telecooperation and Teletrade
Teletrade (electronic commerce) is possible without telecooperation (for example when a customer buys a commodity product directly from a website without any need for person-to-person contact), but the use of telecooperation methods opens up a much wider range of products and services to teletrade possibilities. In any market where the customer needs (or wants) to get advice and guidance (before, during or after the sale), telecooperation methods and skills are essential.
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