By Jill Aitoro at

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 initially skeptical.

"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 information sharing.

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, 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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