By Jill Aitoro at GovExec.com
Leading government into the land of wikis, blogs and social
media isn't easy.
Even Sean Dennehy, whose title is evangelist for the intelligence
community's widely lauded collaboration Web site Intellipedia, was
"Cal Andrus spoke to a technology advisory group that I was a part
of about wikis and blogs, and we all said, 'This guy is crazy,' "
Dennehy recalls. Andrus, who worked in the application services
office at the CIA, had won the intelligence community's Galileo
Award in 2004 for his white paper on using the Internet to boost
Despite a preconceived notion that Web 2.0 technologies had little
place in the intelligence community, Dennehy fiddled online with
the build-as-you-go encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to see where Andrus
was coming from. Sifting through the discussion and history tabs
for each entry, he quickly saw similarities in the online
community's style of collaboration and the way he and his
colleagues at the CIA worked as intelligence analysts. Both
approaches involved a lot of dialogue and building on the ideas of
others. The big difference, though, was information sharing on the
Web required only a few mouse clicks.
"Everyone has a light bulb moment," Dennehy says. "That was mine."
He went back to Andrus to ask how the intelligence community could
get this sort of wiki up and running. In 2006, Intellipedia
officially launched. Three years later, the application boasts
about 5,000 contributions and 15,000 edits per day.
But getting there hasn't been easy.
"It's bloody hard, because every inclination in government is to
close these types of things down," says Don Burke, officially known
as the Intellipedia doyen, who spearheaded the initiative with
Dennehy. "People want some magical formula to innovation, but it's
not that predictable. They just need to fight like hell."
Caught in the Middle
The Obama campaign built an election platform on Web 2.0
technologies using social media sites, streaming video and blogs to
gain support from the country's digitally savvy populace. Building
upon that success, President Obama now is driving those initiatives
into the federal government. The White House has launched a number
of collaborative tools and Web sites to better serve citizens,
including Recovery.gov, which tracks how economic stimulus funds
are allocated and spent. The president also leveraged the
popularity of the video-sharing service YouTube to provide live
online access to his speeches.
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