It seems that the US General Services Administration is about to launch FedSpace, “a new Facebook-like social networking program for federal employees”.
On surface, it looks like a good idea. A safe space for federal government employees to discuss, be in touch, share experience, built on the earlier success of Intellipedia and A-Space in the Intelligence domain, and following in the tracks of SpaceBook by NASA (see previous post) as well as GCPedia or GCConnex in Canada.
Good idea, but not great. While the desire for a safe and secure space is understandable, the problem is that one cannot draw boundaries for collaboration. Those who already use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, GovLoop and other mainstream social media platforms in government do enjoy the ability to determine who they want to be in touch and share information with. In some cases, these are people outside government (ex-colleagues, contractors, academics, activists, and so forth). Providing employees with an internal collaboration space creates artificial boundaries to collaboration. Questions that will arise include: how can I import contacts from my other social media platforms? How can I create a group including contacts across different platforms? How can I mashup with data residing in external sites? and so forth.
This is yet another example of how governments try to bend government 2.0 to fit within their comfort zone. Unfortunately the train has already left the station long time ago. I’m sure that FedSpace will be moderately useful to improve inter-agency communication and knowledge sharing. But I’m also sure that it will be less valuable and more expensive than just focusing on making sure that employees use wisely and productively consumer platforms that they – as well as their constituents and partners – already use anyhow.