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Diplomacy in Action

FY 2008 Report on the Implementation of Public Law 107-347: The E-Government Act of 2002


Report
Bureau of Information Resource Management
October 14, 2008

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Executive Summary

 

The Department of State is pleased to deliver the FY 2008 report on E-Government initiatives. The report outlines how the Department uses information technologies to improve services to our constituents including U.S. and foreign citizens, businesses, other governments, non-governmental organizations, and their employees more quickly and at a declining cost.

The report has two sections:

Section 1 describes the Department of State’s Knowledge Leadership initiative of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Office of eDiplomacy. This organization was formally launched in 2003 and granted wide latitude to innovate in knowledge-sharing, following a broad strategy to empower Department personnel to find and contribute knowledge anywhere and anytime. The creation of this specific center for knowledge management generated and continues to fuel several innovations that give substance to the ongoing shift of the Department toward a more open knowledge-sharing organization. These innovations include:

  • The classified home page program, begun in 2003, which enables U.S. overseas posts to publish diplomatic reporting and analysis to web pages available on a widely used interagency network.
     
  • Diplopedia, the Department’s online collaborative wiki, has created a growing, central gateway for State’s corporate knowledge. All of State’s 57,000 personnel can read and contribute to Diplopedia, which can also be viewed by other U.S agencies.
     
  • The Communities @ State program uses blogging software to enable Department personnel to form and manage online communities based on shared professional interests. These online communities transcend organizational and geographic boundaries.
     
  • An enterprise search initiative that connects Department personnel to expertise and information by integrating Diplopedia, online communities, an informal search support service and Department knowledge bases.
     
  • Initiation and development of the Virtual Present Post program, which improves strategic outreach of U.S. diplomatic missions to people and regions where the U.S. does not have a permanent physical diplomatic presence.

The Bureau of Information Resource Management, Office of eDiplomacy is committed to continue upgrading and expanding each of these advances in order to improve service to employees of the Department and other USG agencies. Five years into the Knowledge Leadership initiative, employee surveys show broad awareness and enthusiasm for programs that facilitate collaboration within the Department and with external partners. eDiplomacy and other offices in State are working to extend advances in the Knowledge Leadership initiative to collaboration with non-U.S. Government partners such as foreign governments, the academic community, and non-governmental organizations.

 

Section 2 provides the links to the Department of State’s public websites where information about our programs and activities is located. These links provide access to the Department’s Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan, 2006-2010; the Enterprise Architecture Transition Strategy; the FOIA website, which makes available a number of public information access services; the FOIA Reference Guide and Handbook; the Electronic Reading Room; and records disposition schedules.

While there are no significant issues identified in Section 2, the Department has not yet completed the full implementation of NARA Bulletin 2006-02. The Department is making progress in this effort, which is summarized in Section 2F, and will continue to take action to implement NARA bulletin 2006-02.

This year specific questions were asked in the e-Capital Planning and Investment Control (eCPIC) questionnaire for the FY 2010 budget process to determine if records schedules were needed for each of the IT systems identified within the major and non-major submissions. One question asked whether or not existing electronic information systems were covered by records disposition schedules. Another question asked whether or not the system owners had completed an information system inventory form. These forms are used by the Department’s records management staff to initiate the records disposition scheduling process. As a result of the eCPIC process, the Department’s records management staff received over 35completed forms this year and will be initiating the scheduling process for these IT systems. In addition, the Department’s records management staff is conducting an electronic records management scheduling project to determine how many of the Department’s IT systems have been scheduled, are in the scheduling process, and still need to be scheduled.

Section 1: Description of the Department of State’s internal agency-specific E-Government initiative.

A. Describe the initiative, the methodology for identification of the initiative, and how the initiative is transforming agency operations;

The U.S. Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy represents both organizational and technological innovation to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing within State and with other federal agencies. These innovations are essential to successful U.S. diplomacy in today’s dynamic and globally integrated information age.

Following the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Africa and the 2001 attacks in the U.S., the State Department recognized an urgent need to improve communication, collaboration and knowledge-sharing internally and with other federal national security and foreign affairs agencies. The Department also realized that this need would require overcoming formidable barriers; a business model of largely self-contained strategic business units (e.g., geographic bureaus and embassies); an organizational tradition of exclusive work focus on an individual’s current business unit; a World War II-era communications model (telegrams) and Cold War security model (“need to know”) that restrained information flow; and a career development model of constant change of job and location.

Accordingly, in 2003, State formally launched the Office of eDiplomacy and granted it wide latitude to innovate in knowledge-sharing, following a broad strategy to empower Department personnel to find and contribute knowledge anywhere and anytime. The office itself and its transformational mandate were remarkable in the context of State’s traditional command and control, hierarchical culture. The creation of a specific center for knowledge management generated and continues to fuel innovations that give substance to the ongoing shift of the Department toward a more open knowledge-sharing organization:

  • eDiplomacy’s classified home page program, begun in 2003 from a base of zero and now virtually universal, enables U.S. overseas posts to publish diplomatic reporting and analysis to web pages available on a widely used interagency network. Besides overcoming the limits of State’s point-to-point telegraphic distribution, the program has instilled a new routine across the enterprise of widespread knowledge-sharing.
     
  • Diplopedia, the Department’s online collaborative wiki, has created a growing, central gateway for State’s corporate knowledge. All of State’s 57,000 personnel can read and contribute to Diplopedia, which can also be viewed by other U.S agencies. Diplopedia’s model of open editing and contribution departs sharply from State’s traditional “clearance” culture of extensive pre-publication review of information. Additionally, U.S. embassies and domestic offices are themselves innovating in Diplopedia’s use as a highly flexible information portal.
     
  • The Communities @ State program uses blogging software to enable Department personnel to form and manage online communities based on shared professional interests. These online communities transcend organizational and geographic boundaries. For example, the North American Partnership links Washington to posts in Canada and Mexico to coordinate efforts and policy. The Regional Consular Officer Forum helps posts around the world access expertise on visa, passport, and overseas citizen services.
     
  • eDiplomacy designed, launched and operates an enterprise search initiative that connects Department personnel to expertise and information by integrating Diplopedia, online communities, an informal search support service and Department knowledge bases.
     
  • eDiplomacy also initiated and provides ongoing support to the Virtual Presence Post (VPP) program. This program helps U.S. diplomatic missions better use the full range of their resources for strategic outreach to people and areas in the host countries where the U.S. does not maintain a permanent diplomatic presence. There are 53 VPPs worldwide.
     
  • eDiplomacy is now leading an effort to extend these advances and develop new approaches to knowledge-sharing and collaboration with non-U.S. Government partners such as foreign governments, the academic community, and non-governmental organizations.

 

The innovations of organization, information technology and business practices that comprise the knowledge leadership program thus have both unified and made more versatile the interaction between State’s extensive domestic operations and its large and dispersed international activities, and advanced a transformation in the Department’s leadership of American foreign policy formulation and implementation.

B. Explain how your agency maintains an ongoing dialogue with interested parties to find innovative ways to use information technology for the initiative;

The Office of eDiplomacy issued a survey in 2003 that garnered almost 900 responses, and based on those responses the Department significantly expanded the ability of employees to collaborate online with colleagues in State and other agencies. For example, Communities @ State enables staff to form and manage their own online communities based on shared professional interests and needs. Bureaus, posts and offices are using Diplopedia as a fast-growing gateway to information about themselves and about international affairs. There is the potential to do much more, and the Office wants as much guidance as possible from State employees in order to make good choices.

Five years into the knowledge leadership initiative, another survey was issued in order to gather input on awareness and use of these innovations. Preliminary results suggest a robust response from employees in the U.S. and abroad and indicate an appreciation for current technologies as well as a call for additional lightweight and mobile tools in the future.

Beyond quantitative measurements, eDiplomacy builds relationships with Community administrators, Diplopedia contributors, and those who request assistance in finding information. The Office leverages its central position to connect personnel working on ostensibly discrete issues and show them how to increase productivity by decreasing the duplication of effort. In turn, active participants in the knowledge leadership initiatives often suggest new and innovative ideas for use of the technologies available, which the Office can then implement for the benefit of the entire Department.

C. Identify external partners (e.g., Federal, State or local agencies, industry) who collaborate with your agency on the initiative;

In addition to Department of State, many other Federal departments and agencies and even some foreign allies participate in the Communities @ State program. The Afghan Strategic Communications Community allows Federal representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Department Of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce, the National Security Council, and their contracting partners to post entries, contribute to discussion, and use the collaborative environment to work with State personnel on reconstruction and other issues. Diplopedia is contributed to by State and USAID personnel, and the content is available for Federal government personnel to view on a closed network hosted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Classified home pages are also hosted on an interagency network, and the reporting contained therein is shared with a wide audience.

D. Identify improved performance (e.g., outcome measures, quantifiable business impact) by tracking performance measures supporting agency objectives and strategic goals;

eDiplomacy’s Knowledge Leadership initiative supports the Information Technology section of the FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan by providing internal and external information sharing capabilities that Department personnel did not previously have in order to collaborate with their internal and external partners. Metrics available indicate that the right information is being provided to personnel both within the Department and with external partners, and this objective will continue to be met in the future.

Because participation is voluntary for eDiplomacy’s initiatives, site usage statistics provide output measures to signify the progress and maturity of each program. Anecdotal evidence also supports the value of these programs to end users and can be a proxy for outcome measures in specific examples.

The Communities @ State initiative began in 2005; as of September 2008, it had 48 active Communities incorporating 23,190 entries and 2,597 comments. Community subjects range from foreign policy issues such as economics or human rights, regional or national affairs, and professional fields such as consular or management work. Prior to the Communities program, there was no way for Department personnel to communicate with external partners, and the preservation of those discussions was very limited.

Diplopedia, launched in September 2006, has over 5,400 articles and nearly 1,200 active contributors, and has received 953,770 page views and 52,209 edits. Diplopedia was the first online collaborative centralized resource for State and USAID employees to read and contribute content. Personnel have praised it for its encyclopedia content, ease of use, and quick page load time. One of the most popular sets of pages within Diplopedia provides a how-to manual for country desk officers, the working level coordinators of day-to-day foreign policy; as one desk officer put it about this guide, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I found it.”

By specially weighting Diplopedia and State’s online communities, enterprise search helps Department personnel find relevant, timely information, such as specific topic articles in Diplopedia with relevant links to authoritative sources. Search itself has increased the range of indexed documents from 100,000 to over 1.3 million. Personnel use search frequently and successfully – for example, there were more than 40,000 queries in the week of September 23, only 17 of which went to the search support service for additional assistance.

The Virtual Presence Post initiative helps U.S. Diplomatic missions effectively coordinate the full range of expertise and resources at post – Foreign Service, defense, commercial, agriculture and other skills provided by tenant USG agencies – for strategic outreach to areas in the host country where there is no permanent U.S. diplomatic presence. Many posts appoint relatively new Foreign Service personnel as “virtual principal officers,” affording them an enriching experience early in their careers by giving them direct responsibility for managing an important mission-wide endeavor.

E. Quantify the cost savings and cost avoidance achieved through implementing the initiative (e.g., reducing or eliminating other investments in information technology);

The Knowledge Leadership initiative is a very cost-effective suite of programs in that it adapts primarily open source technologies for use within the Department’s Intranet and affiliated networks. A minimal central outlay for labor, online capabilities, and travel to posts to train personnel and consult on their business needs greatly reduces the labor costs of individual personnel attempting to track or locate needed information on a case-by-case basis. Whether a building pass takes four days less to procure or an economic officer is able to more quickly verify a treaty citation, the ability to access knowledge and share information anytime and anywhere to meet numerous business requirements like these is a substantial return on investment.

F. Explain how this initiative ensures the availability of government information and services for those without access to the Internet and for those with disabilities;

Many of the programs included in the Knowledge Leadership initiative provide support for mission personnel who directly interact with those who do not have access to the Internet. One example of a Community that helps to provide information in this way is the Regional Consular Officers forum, which serves as a discussion forum and knowledge base for worldwide consular expertise. If American citizens abroad don't have access to the Internet to check a consular policy, they can go to their closest post, and no matter the time of day in the U.S., the Consular section will have consistent access to timely domestic and other regional expertise.

All Knowledge Leadership programs have been tested for Section 508 compliance and work well with adaptive technologies. Interface updates are always made with adaptive as well as mobile technologies in mind.

G. Explain how the project applies effective capital planning and investment control procedures;

The Knowledge Leadership initiative has been managed through State’s capital planning and investment control process as a minor investment. The central program is reviewed each year for the validity of its business case and resource needs in comparison with other requests for funding. Contributions to the initiative, e.g., Diplopedia article creation and editing, Communities discussions, or Search feedback, are largely decentralized. The role of the Office of eDiplomacy is primarily to facilitate contributions, and therefore the framework and support for programs are managed centrally.

H. Describe the established business process your agency has in place for the continued ongoing process of identification of initiatives:

New components to the Knowledge Leadership initiative have been identified in the past through Department surveys and business needs of personnel. For example, 81.06% of respondents to the 2003 survey indicated that “collaboration tools that facilitate cooperation and sharing without regard to boundaries of time and location” were necessary or important, and as a result of this and qualitative responses, the Communities @ State and Diplopedia programs were initiated.

The Diplopedia diplomatic biography reporting initiative was launched as a pilot after U.S. Mission Italy determined a need for a central repository to update information on diplomatic contacts that would be easily accessible to the domestic desk as well as those at post.

 

The Office of eDiplomacy also tracks survey responses through time to determine prevalence of business cases: in 2003, 55.25% of survey respondents indicated that mobile access to Department information was important or necessary; for the first 700 respondents to the 2008 survey, that statistic went up to 69% (this survey is not yet closed).

Section 2: Links to the Department’s public website where the following information is located:

A. Your agency’s Information Resources Management (IRM) Strategic Plan and EA Transition Plan;

The link to the Department’s IT Strategic Plan, 2006-2010 is: http://www.state.gov/m/irm/rls/c13461.htm.

 

The link to the Department’s EA Transition Strategy is: http://www.state.gov/m/irm/rls/110469.htm.

B. Final determinations, priorities, and schedules. Also include your agency’s information dissemination product catalogs, directories, inventories, and any other management tools used to improve the dissemination of and access to your agency’s information by the public;The Department of State’s FOIA web site provides a number of public information access services at the following links:

  1.  A list of the Department of State’s major information systems at http://www.state.gov/m/irm/exhibit300s/
  2.  A description of the Office of eDiplomacy’s programs at http://www.state.gov/m/irm/ediplomacy
  3.  A list of Department of State collections that contain Privacy Impact Assessments at http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/c24223.htm
  4.  A list of information products with Privacy Act Issuances at http://foia.state.gov/issuances/priviss.asp
  5.  The GPO Access / Government Information Locator Service Records (GILS) at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/databases.html
  6.  The Department’s records disposition schedules at http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/c32527.htm (for Domestic records disposition schedules) and http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/c32530.htm (for Foreign records disposition schedules)

The Department of State also maintains an internal records management website that employees can use to answer records management questions. An informed staff improves our ability to disseminate information to the public.

C. Your agency’s FOIA handbook, the link of your agency’s primary FOIA website, and the website link where frequent requests for records are made available to the public;

The link to the Department’s FOIA Reference Guide and Handbook is: http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/c22737.htm

The link to the Department’s primary FOIA website is: http://www.foia.state.gov.

The link to the Department’s Electronic Reading Room where frequent requests for records are made available to the public is: http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/c22790.htm.

D. A list of your agency’s public websites disseminating research and development (R&D) information to the public, describing for each whether the website provides the public information about federally funded R&D activities and/or provides the results of Federal research;

The Department of State does not perform research and development (R&D) activities.

E. An inventory of formal agency agreements (e.g., contracts, memoranda of understanding, partnerships) with external entities (e.g., State and local governments, public libraries, industry and commercial search engines) complementing your agency’s information dissemination program, briefly explaining how each agreement improves the access to and dissemination of government information to the public;

The Department of State has entered into the following formal interagency agreement that complements the Department’s information dissemination program. There is no link to this agreement because it is not posted on the Department’s public website:

Federal Consulting Group, Department of Treasury, interagency agreement to provide the following services through commercial contractors:

  • American Customer Satisfaction Survey by the ForeSee Results web survey. This survey provides customer feedback on defined website components, such as content and site performance.
  • Website assessments of broken links, external links to inappropriate content, etc., to improve user experience by Accenture.
  • Email subscription service to provide the public with up-to-date news from the State Department through GovDelivery.

F. An inventory that describes your agency’s NARA-approved records schedules(s) or the link to the publicly-posted records schedules(s), and a brief explanation of your agency’s progress to implement NARA Bulletin 2006-02. For the brief explanation please report the number of systems for which a record schedule was submitted to NARA in FY 2008 and the number of systems still requiring records schedules.

The following links provide publicly-posted Department of State records disposition schedules:



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