Agencies look inward for Web 2.0

In-house tools are often a safer option

Agencies that seek social-networking capabilities are not always able to use public services such as Facebook and Twitter. When they can't, a growing collection of open-source tools is making it easier for them to create their own systems.

NASA's Spacebook is one of the most visible examples. Linda Cureton, chief information officer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said she led the effort to create the tool because Facebook offered a good model but was too casual and not secure enough for her facility's needs.

Commercial software still has a place in government, but open-source tools are making it possible to quickly and cheaply develop custom solutions, Cureton said.

“Using this open-source approach, we were able to easily work through some of the barriers and concerns that people had,” she said. “The development effort was minimal, and it would have been more difficult to customize a [commercial] solution.”

Customizing commercial products and adopting open-source applications are quick and effective ways to deliver simple tools behind an organization’s firewall, said Steve Heidt, a vice president at EDS.

A few years ago, EDS worked with Apple to create a custom system for the Navy to share training and informational podcasts, he said. Using a popular public tool such as iTunes would have made the information accessible to people not authorized to have it. But the Navy used iTunes as a model.

“It was basically taking Apple’s software and delivery model and modifying it to be resident inside the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network so that it covers that security issue and information management requirements,” Heidt said.

Authentication is another reason many government agencies want to bring Web 2.0 tools in-house, said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal's chief technology officer.

It is too easy to create a phony name on many sites, she said, citing the example of the presidential election when a number of false Hillary Clintons posted updates to Twitter.

However, agencies can easily connect their authentication tools with common social-networking technologies, such as blogs and wikis, Adams said.

NASA’s Spacebook demonstrates how easily and inexpensively agencies can develop an in-house Web 2.0 tool, said Brian Gentile, chief executive officer of JasperSoft, a provider of open-source software.

“Many of the technologies that are needed to build a collaborative, nicely oriented site are readily available, and some are free,” Gentile said. “The cost of pulling together a site is a fraction of what it was even five years ago, and the functionality is, of course, much better.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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