Monday, June 23, 2008

Federal Library Web 2.0 Interest Group News

Federal government librarians in Canada recently created a Web 2.0 Interest Group (WIG) to explore ways of incorporating wikis, RSS, collaborative technologies, open source, etc. into their work.

The WIG's first meeting took place June 9 here in Ottawa.

Here is a summary.

Oryst Iwanycky of Industry Canada welcomed the audience of over 40 participants to the inaugural meeting. To date over 60 staff from across the Government of Canada and others have joined the group.

Thomas Kearney from Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) demonstrated the prototype TBS Wiki which was created for use by federal public servants.

The TBS has divided the proposed wiki into 7 main categories for content ("our Dewey Decimal System" he called it). It runs on Mediawiki software (the same as Wikipedia) so no huge development is involved. It will be mostly for policy, with official and unofficial content, complete documents and works in progress.

TBS is attempting to document the costs involved for server hosting, management, and complying with the federal government Common Look and Feel standards. The prototype is now called the Collaborative Library Prototype - TBS is looking for suggestions for a cooler name that works in Canada's both official languages.

The ultimate goal: create a wiki to be offered throughout the government of Canada, as common a tool as your work phone and e-mail account.

Kearney acknowledged that there are mixed messages about interactive Web 2.0 tools inside the government. While TBS is very pro-Web 2.0, Public Works and Government Services Canada objects that it has no policies in place to address Web 2.0 liability issues (privacy, security, confidentiality, official languages, access to information), and procurement policies in the government sector cannot easily handle open source products.

For example, there are no hard and fast rules on official languages for wikis. Digital collaboration, and high-speed broadband were never envisaged back in the 70s when official biligualism was launched. The TBS attitude is that a wiki is like a virtual workplace, where "language of choice" applies: at a meeting, you can speak the language of your choice.

TBS however is developing rules on official languages. For example, it might be a good idea to make bilingualism on the wiki mandatory for broad consultation documents or final drafts. Preliminary discussions could be in any language.

As for access to information legislation, Kearney specified that wiki material will likely be "ATIPable" (it can be the object of an access request under the Access to Information Act). But Web 2.0 creates new situations: who is in charge of handling ATIP requests concerning cross-departmental collaborative docs in a wiki? And since the wiki content changes all the time, what constitutes a "record" for the purposes of the access legislation?

Kearney's overall sense of the situation is that the government is pushing ahead even if no perfect model for Web 2.0 tech exists for the public sector. The federal government machine jumps into permanent beta, in other words.

And, in the spirit of putting your money where your mouth is, everyone in WIG is being invited to join the Ning social network group called Wigwam123 to communicate, interact and collaborate on all issues relating to Web 2.0. Wigwam123 is closed to non-members for the moment.

The next WIG meeting is Monday, July 7.

Earlier Library Boy posts about Web 2.0 in the Canadian government include:
  • Federal Library Community Forms Web 2.0 Interest Group (May 3, 2008): "We are proposing (...) to identify & publish a list of key resources on Web 2.0 specifically for federal libraries; to identify topics of interest in Web 2.0 for discussion, for example, wikis, RSS, collaborative technologies, open source, etc.; to identify departments engaged in Web 2.0 projects and to show the results to the community this fall."
  • Government of Canada: The Web 2.0 Genie Is Finally Out of the Bottle (June 6, 2008): "A contribution today on the FLC/CBF listserv (Federal libraries community/Collectivité des bibliothèques) pointed to examples of implementation of social networking on government Web sites: ... 'A comprehensive system for online collaboration and social networking projects by government departments is in the works. The project involves systems that can provide social networking capabilities for around 250,000 people and will cover 58 government departments. Key technology for this initiative is being provided by Waterloo, Ont.-based OpenText...' ".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:17 pm

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