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Monday, April 6, 2009

Not your Father's Feds: Taming the Widening Scope of U.S. Government Content Initiatives

As everyone knows, there's a new administration at the controls of the federal government in Washington, D.C., one that came into power in part thanks to a presidential campaign's mastery of new online publishing tools and one that is looking hard at how content technologies may be able to help transform our government. In some ways the new administration is picking up where it left off at the end of the election, using online publishing as a way to advance programs for political change. Web sites such as HealthReform.gov and Recovery.gov are White House-sponsored information sites that are as much about promoting the policy positions of the new White House team as they are about public information.

But at the same time, the new administration is championing initiatives to spread Web 2.0 technologies throughout the federal government as tools that can help to both disseminate and gather content from and for the public. During the transition period the Obama transition team used the Web site Change.gov to collect information from people about what they wanted from the incoming administration, information that was used as input into policy-making decisions. Similar initiatives are working their way into all parts of the Executive branch of the federal government, significantly increasing the breadth and frequency of content being made available by the government. In addition, members of Congress are also discovering the abilities of social media technologies to enable them to communicate more directly with their constituents, using tools such as weblogs, Twitter, online video services and online forums to cast a wider net of interaction with the public outside of traditional media.

Beyond the political side of the U.S. government, the incoming administration technology team is promising more open access to government information for the public, as well as supplementing the ability of national security and law enforcement professionals to collect information from across the spectrum of government and public resources. Our recently announced relationship with Capgemini to enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies to aggregate the right content at the right time for law enforcement officials is but one example of where MuseGlobal is able to help governments make sense of a sea of information resources far more rapidly and efficiently than ever before.

All of this adds up to a profile for government information services that is far different than what we were encountering even just a few years ago. Yes, the events of 9/11 triggered a massive onslaught to modernize intelligence gathering technologies, but today we're starting to see that the government as a whole is being transformed through both the ability to collect information and the ability to generate it as well. It's just not possible any more to monitor a few of the traditional publications and government information services to get a handle on what is going on in the government: literally hundreds of information initiatives are each crying out for the attention of both the public and professionals - and creating an enormous challenge for those who need to stay on top of both information and changing technologies at the same time.

As usual we're seeing that our Smart Connector technologies are going to help play a big role in sorting this out for both government initiatives and for enterprises that are trying to stay on top of the latest government information sources. You see, although much of what's new in federal information services rides on top of standardized Web technologies it's difficult to say when and where these technologies are going to be deployed next - and what impact those changes in deployment may have in your ability to track government information sources. Today an agency may be putting out information in a simple Web page format or have a legacy database interface that you've been processing for ages. Tomorrow it could all change in a heartbeat - and change again as newer and better technologies come into place at those agencies.

In an era in which new technologies are going to break more than a few eggs on the way to making great government information omelettes, our Smart Connectors are an enormous help to enterprises trying to keep the distractions from these changes to a minimum. Since our Smart Connectors are maintained automatically as a part of MuseGlobal services, interruptions to your ability to retrieve information from these sources are kept to an absolute minimum. They could change their formats and platforms every day of the week and still you'd have the best content source connector team in the world ensuring that you'll be in touch with their information. Best of all, since MuseGlobal Smart Connectors support two-way update flows, government agencies can collect information from thousands of sources and enable those sources to reflect the knowledge that they have collected as well. With the preponderance of social media initiatives under way now in the federal government, ensuring two-way updates will be more important than ever.

So if you were hoping for more openness and access in the U.S. federal government, the good news is that it's coming in buckets. The bad news is that you have lots and lots of new and changing buckets to sift through to make sense of it all - even, and perhaps especially, if you're the government. Well, it's clear to me that our ability to unify thousands of different types of content sources on the fly to deliver fresh content reliably in whatever format suits people is entering a new phase of usefulness in the face of this onslaught. Thank goodness that it's nothing new to us. Just another day at the company that unifies everything, as we like to say.

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