Treasury Board to share wiki success secrets with deputy ministers

NIAGARA ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – Treasury Board Secretariat is getting ready to share some of its early experiments with Web 2.0 technologies with deputy ministers across Canada who may build on them in their own communities.

Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has been working with online tools to share information and collaborate, often referred to as Web 2.0, for about the last year and a half. According to TBS chief technology officer Chuck Henry, who is attending this year’s 12th annual Lac Carling Congress, the biggest success has centered around its wiki, which has been made available to about 500 users and has become a forum to discuss policy development.

So far, Henry said, the wiki includes more than 1,000 pages of content and receives between 6,000 and 8,000 page views a month. While not public yet, he said the tool has already proven itself as a valuable way to share best practices, he said.

“It’s much more than a wiki – it’s become a trove of information,” he said, citing a recent survey put out through the wiki asking government employees about their green IT efforts. “We had people all the way up to the ADM level who were getting behind the keyboard to talk about green IT, because in general they’re very proud about what they’ve accomplished.”

TBS hasn’t had to invest much financially to get its Web 2.0 efforts off the ground, Henry added. The wiki is based on MediaWiki, an open source platform which also provides the foundation for the popular Wikipedia service. The majority of funds spent have been around consulting fees to guide the rollout.

Bernard Courtois, president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), is also attending Lac Carling. He said government use of IT is among his organization’s top strategic priorities.

“They are in many ways the most sophisticated user, so they are the natural ones to be leading the charge,” Courtois said. “On the other hand, the procurement process makes things very difficult and the political climate is so risk-averse that at times the pendulum can swing towards inaction.”

Henry said TBS has anticipated some of the wariness that government departments may have around Web 2.0.

“We’ve looked at about a dozen policies – privacy, access, security, HR – and created a document about how that would be affected about Web 2.0,” he said. “It basically will tell you what to look for.” An appendix to the document will also include a mockup of a terms and conditions/consent form that governments could simply cut and paste into their own applications, he said.

The meeting with the deputy ministers will take place in a few weeks and will include Ken Cochrane, Canada’s federal CIO, and other Web 2.0 early adopters including Natural Resources Canada, Henry said. Although there will be opportunities to discuss the pros and cons of Web 2.0, Henry admitted that not all forms of social networking may apply to public sector professionals.

“We started with a blog for me, (but) I wasn’t a very good blogger,” he said. “I learned a lot about the need to refresh content on a regular basis.”

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