Social Learning on Horizon for Federal Agencies?

A social networking platform called One Voice could be used for training purposes by the federal government if early implementations prove successful.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans to roll out One Voice next spring to 45,000 employees and contractors across 10 locations. It is destined to replace many of the agency’s traditional modes of communication. Once the system is operating, NNSA will consider integrating other workplace functions into it, such as training, according to agency CTO Travis Howerton.

“This will foundationally change the way people work,” he says. “If you look at moving to a virtual workforce, one of the things you lose is those relationships. If you’re working from home every day, a social network allows you to build relationships with people in your community and establish status.”

One Voice is similar to Facebook, but accessing specific communities that discuss sensitive information will require extensive authentication and additional security controls. The initiative is part of an information technology reform effort of the Department of Energy that is called RightPath.
“We’re approving an I.T. modernization strategy that says this is the answer for the agency, but what we want to do is prove it at scale,” Howerton says. “We want to crawl-walk-run, but it is an agency-wide goal to get to that end state.”

Unlike traditional email, this type of social information exchange can help employees filter out extraneous information and reduce the pressure to send unnecessary responses. It also can bring useful participants into a conversation and filter out those who are not essential.

“If we have multiple projects coming up and we want to get a feel for what the community thinks, we have the ability to quickly put that out and get feedback,” Howerton says. “It has things like town halls in it and we can publish video out to our constituents.”

The system will archive all information to guard against losing institutional knowledge when an employee leaves the agency or changes jobs.

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