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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Reader comments

Wed, Jul 7, 2010 CyBear DC

Interesting ... how many more millions of taxpayers' dollars are going to be spent by government employees playing around in virtual worlds? Has there been a 3rd party, uninterested analysis of the true value of this project? What is the return on investment? Do they have policies in place to secure this virtual world behind firewalls? What kind of authentication? Will there be Intrusion Detection? Encryption of data in all 3 states? The .gov domain is already insecure enough ... do we really need another layer of problems? I totally understand simulations for flyers, tank drivers, medical personnel and other training but I don't think we really need it for everyday work ... maybe put down the phone, ipod and Webchat ... actually talk to a person? What a concept? Communication in the federal government between agencies is awful @ best ... do we really need cartoon-like characters doing government business? Please don't waste any more of my tax dollars...

Tue, Jun 1, 2010 Ryan Kenny San Jose

Cool. I would create a flat plain populated with giant rice bowls as far as the eye could see.

Tue, Jun 1, 2010

World of GovCraft. Interesting. Will I be able to acquire points for charisma? How about virtual pies that I can throw at Colleges? Truly endless possibilities... ;) Seriously though, It is insteresting. My question is, other than snazziness, what content and communications values are added? I'd be interested in hearing more thoughts on application in that regard. I can certainly can see where presentation and sharing of data could be improved, and that might be useful in emergency management scenerios...

Tue, Jun 1, 2010

Sets up a whole new set of policies that probably need to be articulated.

Fri, May 28, 2010 Tim

Now if we could just transfer a few trillion dollars from the Fantasyland bank into hard cash in the real world, we would have some basis for economic recovery.

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