Editorial: Praising experimentation

Web 2.0 technologies may be difficult to assess in terms of ROI, but there is potential in those technologies

If you listened carefully last week, you could hear snickers and scoffs coming from some corners of agency offices when we learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was buying property in the virtual world of Second Life. We even heard one person ask how much CDC was spending on this effort. (CDC has spent about $2,000 to build its Second Life world.)



Second Life is a virtual online world where people can fly around. It sometimes resembles the world of gaming more than the world of work, and getting officials to participate can be a tough sell. We also realize it can be difficult to attach a clear return on investment to projects such as Second Life and other Web 2.0 technologies and initiatives.



A Forrester Research report last month found that many business organizations are facing these same questions. “Much of the value of a Web 2.0 deployment is incremental and ‘soft’ in nature, and as a result, clear business value measurement remains elusive,” according to the report, “IT Will Measure Web 2.0 Tools Like Any Other App.”



Clearly, Web 2.0 tools must be assessed to determine if they are worth the time, effort, energy and money that people invest in them. Agencies also have to assess how Web 2.0 ranks among their other priorities.



Taking all of that into consideration, we want to praise the brave few who are experimenting with Web 2.0 applications. At least three agencies have property in Second Life: CDC, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA’s Ames Research Center has been particularly innovative in its use of Second Life, which gives the center a global tool for reaching and educating people they might not otherwise reach. NASA has even hired an intern in Second Life.



Forrester has it right. Some of the benefits are soft. One potential benefit, however, is that people who are most interested in Web 2.0 applications — young people — are the government workers of the future.



The technologies will undoubtedly evolve. The valuable ones will flourish, and those that are a waste of time will wither. But the courageous few can teach the rest of us valuable lessons.



Agencies must implement these applications wisely, but they have enough potential to make that investment worthwhile.





cartoon

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1986, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group