CIOs like Web 2.0 tools for sharing information

Web 2.0 tools are like a train barreling down the tracks, and chief information officers at agencies should be wary about getting run over by the new technology, Linda Cureton, the chief information officer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said today.

“You can be the CIO that tries to jump on a railroad track and run past a speeding locomotive and not get run over, or you can be a CIO that lays track to outline what the technology can do for your agency,” Cureton said during a panel discussion about the Web 2.0 in the federal government.

“This technology will run you over if you don’t get out in front of it and figure out how it can solve your agency’s needs,” Cureton said at the event sponsored by AFCEA's Bethesda Chapter.

Employees don't need the help of an agency’s information technology staff members to start using free tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and CIOs who ignore this reality risk becoming irrelevant, Cureton said.

At the Goddard center,  Facebook is used to share information about certain projects, Cureton said. A tool based on Facebook, named Spacebook, is being developed there for employees to collaborate internally, she said.

Officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) use Twitter to announce funding notices and news, said Jim Angus, associate director of communications at Office of Extramural Research/Office of Research Information Systems at NIH.

In October 2008, Rob Carey, CIO of the Navy Department, issued a memo that endorsed the use of Web 2.0 tools.

“The only purpose of the menu was just to give the thumbs up that using these tools is okay,” Carey said at today's session. “It was not to propose any solutions because you don’t want to be prescriptive.”

An unintended consequence of allowing the use of Web 2.0 tools is the technology helps build trust, Carey said. Social networking creates relationships which, in turn, creates trust among people, he said.

“Suddenly, I trust them. I trust where they’re coming from and I understand what their ability is in relation to the outcome I’m looking for,” he said.

Carey wants to see Web 2.0 tools become part of the mainstream at the Navy Department.

“Because in the age of collaboration I don’t care where the answer comes from, I care that the answer comes,” he said. “You have this online debate about what’s right and what’s wrong, and somebody is bound to put his reputation on the line and get it right, and that important.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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