DOD deepens Web 2.0 pool

Wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools will be critical to improving communication and collaboration among Defense Department employees and warfighters, according to recent DOD statements.

DOD officials launched a wiki, called DOD Techipedia, on Oct. 1 as a way to improve collaboration among agency scientists, engineers, acquisition workers and military service members.

DOD spends about $10 billion a year on science and technology, said John Young, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. DOD Techipedia, which resembles online encyclopedia Wikipedia, will help DOD officials better coordinate that work.

“You want to do this so all the individuals out there executing some of that $10 billion can look elsewhere in the Defense Department and see if someone else has already tried an idea,” Young said. “That way we can get the collaboration [and] coordination and reduce duplication. It also lets us avoid learning the same lesson two or three times in our enterprise.”

DOD Techipedia is available to federal employees and contractors registered with the Defense Technical Information Center, DOD’s central repository for defense-related science and technology information. Officials plan to launch an external wiki in the next several months.

In October, Navy Chief Information Officer Robert Carey issued a memo that endorsed the use of Web 2.0 tools to improve communication and collaboration for the Navy and Marine Corps.

“Web 2.0 tools are useful in a global enterprise,” Carey wrote in the memo. “They enable widely dispersed commands and personnel to more effectively collaborate and share information.”

Although wikis and other Web 2.0 tools won’t instantly resolve DOD’s collaboration challenges, the new technology should help, industry experts say.

DOD’s attempts in the 1990s to use knowledge management applications as a way to encourage collaboration mostly failed, said Benjamin Friedman, a research manager at Manufacturing Insights, a market research and consulting firm. Web 2.0 tools will be more effective than those efforts because users only need a Web browser and Internet connection to access them, Friedman said. 

“This idea of being able to share information from the front lines all the way back to the DOD planning offices in some sort of narrative is important,” he said. “I think from top to bottom, the level of communication will be much smoother than the specific knowledge management applications from the 1990s.”

The efforts also might change how DOD personnel work together, said Gil Yehuda, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.
“The way people are using the Internet today is providing a new way of thinking about collaboration, one that is open and social,” Yehuda said. “Collaboration is not just about the content, it is also about who is involved in the process.”

The popularity of Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook and Twitter among consumers should also help DOD’s new efforts.

“Both the knowledge workers in the civilian and defense worlds have come of age with these types of tools,” Friedman said. “The entering soldiers or civilians are used to working in this collaborative space, and their notion of sharing, community and knowledge is much more open.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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