State uses cross-agency pilot to draw on federal expertise

The goal of the OPIC pilot project is to provide a foreign service forum for officials throughout the government.

'Commerce Department Conselor Mario W. Cardullo

(GCN Photo by Henrik G. DeGyor)

The State Department is trying to expand the federal brain trust that will use the global knowledge management network it's building.

Department officials are recruiting federal employees with foreign policy responsibilities to take part in State's Overseas Presence Interagency Collaboration project.

The department began an OPIC pilot in mid-May, and contractor Accenture LLP of Chicago is deploying the system at State posts in Mexico and India.

Accenture and subcontractor Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., are training OPIC users at the overseas posts and in Washington.

The department wants to connect federal users'no matter their agencies'who have expertise in border security, crisis management, counterterrorism, foreign policy administration and law enforcement.

State will create groups of users. Each group will have an account manager based in Washington, said Dillon Auyoung, OPIC account manager for the trade group.

Auyoung said the trade group will include officials from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State, Transportation and Treasury, as well as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Agency for International Development.

'We are hoping to get a critical mass of 50 members in trade,' Auyoung said. 'More than that can get unwieldy.'

Mario W. Cardullo, a counselor for technology and entrepreneurism in Commerce's International Trade Administration, emphasized the importance of marketing the system to potential users, including foreign commercial service officers who work as commercial attach's in overseas posts.

'Right now, if I want to find an expert in a particular field, I have to look at a department's organizational chart or on the Web,' Cardullo said. 'But with OPIC, I would be able to directly find out where I could find an expert on capital formation in China, for example.'

Cardullo said OPIC encountered some opposition within Commerce from officials who said existing systems such as Lotus Notes could carry out similar tasks'for example, coordinating the calendars of members of the group.

But Notes and Novell Groupwise lack the knowledge-sharing tools OPIC will deploy, such as chat and whiteboard applications, Cardullo said.

The system's core is the Interagency Collaboration Zone, through which officials will exchange information.

For content management, OPIC uses the Vignette Enterprise Application Portal from Vignette Corp. of Dallas. InfoWorkSpace 2.5 from Ezenia Inc. of Burlington, Mass., provides Web collaboration and conferencing.

To analyze and categorize information and profile users based on the information they access regularly, Accenture has integrated Autonomy Server from Autonomy Corp. of Cambridge, England, into OPIC.

But the system will also rely on many other commercial applications:

  • Accelio forms and workflow software from Adobe Systems Inc.

  • PIX firewalls from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

  • TestDirector load and system testing tools from Mercury Interactive Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

  • Intrusion detection software from NFR Security Inc. of Rockville, Md.

  • Oracle Corp. databases.

  • iPlanet directory services from Sun Microsystems Inc.

  • Data clustering software from Veritas Software Corp. of Mountain View, Calif.

The OPIC applications run under Microsoft Windows Advanced Server 2000 on Compaq Computer Corp. servers in Washington. Users can access OPIC via Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers.

OPIC will have a public-key infrastructure. State will use GetAccess software from Entrust Inc. of Addison, Texas, for PKI.

Before rolling out OPIC to State users, Accenture built a prototype at its facility in Reston, Va., Accenture program manager Darryl Love said.

'The real problem is convincing people about the functionality and ease of use because not everyone is technically savvy,' Cardullo said. 'By this pilot program, we seek to demonstrate the success of the system.'

State's Auyoung added, 'Our criteria for the success of the system would be to have participation and for the users themselves to create groups and use them to define problems and solve them or work on them.'

The OPIC pilot will last until September, when it will have used up its $17 million appropriation for this year.

State has requested $14.5 million to continue the program in 2003. The architecture of the pilot system would support expansion worldwide through the creation of six or seven regional collaboration zones.

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