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3/10/2009
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CIA, NSA Adopting Web 2.0 Strategies

In addition to Intellipedia, social and Web-inspired software is becoming the next great tool for the intelligence community.

While the United States intelligence community may have gotten a lot of publicity for its Wikipedia-like Intellipedia Web site, agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency are ramping up their use of other social and Web-inspired software as well.

Intellipedia has been a success -- with 830,000 pages, it's the crown jewel of the intelligence community's proof that information sharing is better in the wake of the 9/11 attacks -- but Michael Kennedy, director of enterprise solutions for the intelligence community, said the government can't rest on its laurels. He admits criticism that Intellipedia has matured, and while it remains a centerpiece, he said the government also needs to keep moving onto the next big thing.

"We don't know what the next great tool is going to be for the users," he said during a panel discussion Tuesday at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C. "We just know there will be one very soon, and we want to be there, whatever it is."

For example, intelligence agency employees now exchange about 5 million daily instant messages via Jabber and IBM Sametime. A search engine based on Google technologies has indexed 92 million documents and handles 2 million queries every month. A new site allows employees to share and analyze photos and videos of events like a test last year that destroyed a failing satellite with a missile.

This year, the community is working on a number of new initiatives, such as ramping up search capabilities. For example, the agencies are now working with a vendor -- Kennedy wouldn't say who -- that provides it with the ability to draw a picture and then search for similar images. Semantic search capabilities to analyze sentiment and summarize documents are coming soon, too, but for now Kennedy and his colleagues aren't yet confident in the ability of commercial tools on which it will rely.

Another key focus for the intelligence community's social and information-sharing initiatives this year is a common one: SharePoint. "It's one of those products we can't get by without anymore," Kennedy said, adding that SharePoint is used for everything from unclassified to highly classified intelligence.

Kennedy and his colleagues hope the new tools will accelerate problem solving, since intelligence agency employees can now immediately post and share information they are receiving about events, and since the tools can bring subject matter experts like a CIA agent and an NSA signal intelligence analyst together to work on documents and analysis more deeply than they may have been able to do in the past.


Learn more about Web 2.0 at TechWeb's Web 2.0 Expo, co-produced by O'Reilly Media, March 31-April 3. Join us (registration required).

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