The State Department will be launching an internal
Facebook-style community, dubbed Statebook, according to the head of the
agency’s eDiplomacy section. The firewall-protected site will be available for
use by employees and diplomatic officials to post information relating to the
business of diplomacy.
It is the agency’s hope that Statebook will operate more
like the networking site LinkedIn than the more socially-oriented Facebook. “If
you’re sharing something on your Statebook profile, the idea is that it’s
information that you want to share with your colleagues,” said Richard Boly,
State’s director of eDiplomacy, the office responsible for the site’s creation.
The office of eDiplomacy has been a part of the Bureau of
Information Resource Management since October 2003, with a mission to bring
diplomats into the IT decision-making process, improve ways to collaborate
within and outside the department, and promote knowledge management.
With the development of Statebook, the second part of
department’s eDiplomacy mission gets a shot in the arm. The worldwide
distribution of State’s personnel, in missions in nearly every country, make
fidning and tracking down the right person to talk to all the more challenging.
“Social media is not just a passing fad for kids,” Boly told
Government Technology magazine. “It is a serious and useful tool for knowledge
management and collaboration, and that’s beneficial to any organization. It’s a
way to collaborate with experts and develop a community bigger than your
State’s move to launch its own collaboration network is the
latest in a series of social media innovations by the federal government.
NASA’s homegrown “Spacebook” network, used by employees at the Goddard Space
Flight Center, and the U.S. intelligence community’s “A-Space” network both
turned heads as early entrants into the government-as-social-media-provider
According to Boly, one of the difficult tasks faced by State
Department employees is finding credible experts in various fields around the
country. With Statebook, if a staffer reads an important and relevant article,
meets an individual who has key skills and knowledge, or even finds potential
resources within their personal social media contacts, they have a central and
secure location to post that information.
One of the office of eDiplomacy’s other major projects is
Diplopedia. Launched in 2006, the unclassified online encyclopedia was
recognized in Wired magazine’s “Best Government Tech of the Bush Years” and is
home to a broad collection of information submitted by State employees.
Diplopedia now has 10,000 plus articles on topics ranging from State Department
trade tricks to international relations and diplomacy, and is considered a
great success inside the agency.
The folks at Foggy Bottom are hoping for the same kind of
success with Statebook, and they have taken a deliberate approach including
ample user testing. A beta version of the site will be tested with a group of
300 to 400 users, Boly said.