Benefit from Social Networking in Government
The November Government Open Source Conference (GOSCONDC) in Washington DC provided valuable lessons on implementing FOSS in Government. Most of the intriguing examples were about how to leverage open source software for social networking – Government 2.0. Keynote speaker David Wennergren, the Deputy CIO of the US Department of Defence concluded that Government 2.0 with Service-Oriented Architecture is a strategic inflection point for government: “a future much more quickly.” Another pointed out that open source technology has become the foundation for Andrew McAfee’s SLATES vision of Enterprise 2.0: Search, Links, Authorship, Tags, Extensions, Signalling.
Culture change and security risks were sited as the main barriers to adoption. The irony, of course, is that adoption of open source technology, particularly middleware, and social networking is highest in the Defence and Security establishments. As we tweeted after the event, Intellipedia has become the meme, or established standard for Government 2.0 and collaboration.
Security and Risk
Security and risk was addressed by many speakers. The availability of source code has enabled government IT groups to discover and trap security flaws. Of course, implementing software in closed networks can eliminate external threats.
Panelists like Martin Standtler pointed out that open and adaptable tools enable agility. Tools designed for a particular purpose often restricts users for leveraging for a similar situation. Recent experiences on the battlefield demonstrates demonstrated the value of hacking into open systems. His conclusion: “if you can’t hack it, don’t pack it”.
Dr. David Boyd of the Department of Homeland Security pointed out that information is central to the security mission. The after-action reports after 9/11 and Katrina demonstrated the breakdown in communications. He made a persuasive argument that risk is higher when information is not shared and collaboration is restricted.
Overcoming Cultural Resistance
Dr. Mark Drapeau pointed out at the FreeBalance-sponsored ICGFM DC Forumthat the opposite of Web 2.0 culture is Government. GOSCONDC panelists agreed: public servants who lead Government 2.0 initiatives have more to gain than to lose. Panelists Martin Standtler of Red Hat, Don Burke of the CIA, Eric Gundersen of Development Seed, and Rob Wolborsky of the U.S. Navy had very good advice including:
- Initiatives that advance the mission will get command approval
- Grassroots initiatives will work better than top-down – middle managers often resist top-down initiatives more
- Implement in a protected environment
- Quick wins – start small and implement incrementally
- Develop rapid prototypes
- Sell ideas that demonstrate asymmetrical advantages
- Seek out those willing to help – in any group of people will be found someone who recognizes how the solution will help them
- It is myth that social networking will only be used by younger people
- Demonstrate to users how the approach will enable them to do their job better
- Develop topical solutions rather than organization-centric solutions
Government is in the “information business.” Making information more available in the back-office can improve collaboration and government results. The Department of Homeland Security is finding inexpensive ways to coordinate across levels of governments and security organizations. Perhaps Intellipedia is the right place to start when justifying a Government 2.0 initiative.