GSA debuts new Web 2.0 tools and hosting for federal agencies

Citizen.apps.gov website designed to help agencies get the most out of blogs, wikis and forums

The General Services Administration is making it easier for federal agencies to create blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 applications via a new federal website offering free tools and hosting services.

The new Citizen.apps.gov site offers the products and services only for federal employees. It launched in beta form in August with six Web 2.0 tools, including a blog, wiki, citizens discussion forum and contest platform. The tools are easy to use, secure, created from open-source software and compliant with federal policies, including regulations on access for people with disabilities under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Gwynne Kostin, director at the GSA’s Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said at FedScoop’s FedTalks 2010 conference today. The tools also are customizable, and GSA will provide hosting services.

“We have cleared away a lot of issues,” Kostin said. “You do not need to worry about software, or servers, or the security of servers.”

Kostin believes the new tools will be especially helpful to small federal agencies with a need to move quickly on a Web 2.0 project, such as setting up a blog or initiating an innovation challenge, as well as for cross-agency projects.


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“This meets a deep need,” Kostin added, ”and you do not need a lot of permissions to use it.”

Citizen.apps.gov also offers discussion groups for users to ask questions and become familiar with the offerings. It is an adjunct to the GSA's Apps.gov website launched last year offering access to commercial cloud computing offerings at various prices.

Kostin said the website is intended to help federal employees feel more autonomy and empowerment in their jobs and to be motivated to share ideas.

“[Federal employees] unsupported, unempowered, tangled in bureaucracy and fed up,” Kostin said. “But they also have great ideas, care about public service and want to make a difference."

Kostin suggested that federal managers consider applying aspects of the GovLoop social media network and Wikipedia models of contribution, in which many people with knowledge contribute freely to discussions in an open-ended format. That is a sharp contrast to typical hierarchical management structures dating from more industrial times, she said.

Employees seek autonomy, mastery, purpose and community, and good managers structure the workplace to provide a setting with the potential to realize those goals, Kostin added.

As new information technology tools are created and deployed within government, “do we bake in motivation, or do we bake in hierarchy and helplessness?” Kostin asked. “We can use technology to drive the kind of government we want.”

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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