Government-only virtual world on the way

USDA, DHS and Air Force participating in vGov

Federal employees and managers will be able to meet, interact, train and learn together in a government-only online virtual world being created in the vGov project.

The Agriculture and Homeland Security departments, Air Force and National Defense University iCollege have joined to create the vGov virtual world behind a secure firewall that can only be accessed by federal employees with authenticated identities.

Paulette Robinson, assistant dean for teaching, learning and technology at the iCollege, said at the Gov 2.0 Expo today the project will use the three-dimensional immersive experience of virtual worlds to bring employees together from locations worldwide for real-time interactions. People will use avatars to appear in the virtual world, where they can chat with other avatars and interact with the environment.

“Webinars are boring,” Robinson said. But in the online virtual world, “you feel like you are there and you have a sense that others are there.” It is difficult to describe the experience to those who have not tried it on public virtual worlds such as Second Life, she added.

The vGov virtual world environment is now being built and is expected to go online starting in July. It will be used for employee education, continuity of operations training, cybersecurity education and disaster response, Robinson said.

The entire vGov program will be structured behind a firewall, and participation will be limited to federal employees who have undergone an e-authentication process to verify their identity, she said.

The goal is to create a virtual work environment that includes enabling the three-dimensional visualization of data. “We are experimenting with a repository of knowledge management in 3D,” Robinson said.

Another possibility is offering cybersecurity training for employees in the virtual world, she added. Mandatory cybersecurity training for federal employees can be dense and tedious, while the virtual world offers a chance to make the training more of “an adventure” that is highly interactive, she said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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