Wikis, Cloud and Facebook, Oh My! Some Government Agencies Don't Fear 2.0

Ann All

Not long ago I noted government agencies have rigid policies (and corresponding paperwork) in place for nearly every process. Agencies are often described as "bureaucracies," not the kind of management structure that lends itself well to Web 2.0 technologies. Yet despite this-or hmm, maybe because of it-some government agencies are experiencing success with social communications tools.


Back in June I wrote about several federal agencies that use wikis, including the State Department and the General Services Administration. We can add the Department of Defense to that list, based on an IDG story published in The New York Times. In addition to a wiki, the DOD has its own Facebook-like social-networking site, a blog site and a website that hosts dozens of Web applications for DOD employees and executives, says David Dejewski, a division head in the DOD Business Transformation Office. About 1.5 million DOD employees and contractors are free to use these tools.


The DOD apparently also has embraced cloud computing, given Dejewski's reference to "stuff ... being hosted elsewhere in the cloud." The agency seems to enjoy the flexibility that is often presented as a primary benefit of the cloud. According to the story, Dejewski's office can create new Web applications for DOD employees in just a few hours. Said Dejewski:

Your whole mission with Web 2.0 ... is to focus on value.

As IT Business Edge's Lora Bentley wrote last spring, the DOD also cleared the way for military personnel to use social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter on the government network. The permission came with a few strings attached for security's sake. For instance, military personnel must use non-classified computers and their activities cannot "jeopardize operational security" or involve restricted sites such as those promoting gambling or pornography. Also, unit commanders can limit access as necessary to maintain security or address bandwidth issues.


Dejewski says the DOD has created a strong security architecture, including multifactor authentication. Security remains a bugaboo for many organizations considering social and/or cloud-based technologies. But if the DOD can overcome its security concerns, other government agencies will no doubt do so as well. Microsoft, Dell, IBM and other tech giants are among the companies promoting government cloud adoption.

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