Mike DaConta | The new face of information sharing

Mike DaConta

Have you ever wondered why they name laws after children, such as 'Jessica's Law'? The reason is that complex issues need a simple, recognizable 'face' to make them real for a wide audience. This does more than just simplify the complexities'it also allows an issue to resonate in a visceral way.

This is exactly the kind of catalyst that information sharing needs'something that resonates among the public with such intensity that phones ring in Congress and budget-myopic agencies ignite culture change.

With that as our model, let me propose two candidates for the face of information sharing: avian flu and Iraqi caves. An avian flu epidemic would be a crisis of epic proportions. At the other end of the spectrum are those who hide in caves, building bombs. Neither must be allowed to cross our borders.

Resolving a crisis typically requires an ad-hoc community of interest thrown together on short notice with the right people, processes and technology to enable immediate, sound decisions. The Defense Department's Net-centric data strategy defines a COI as 'a collaborative group of users that must exchange information in pursuit of its shared goals, interests, missions, or business processes and therefore must have shared vocabulary for the information it exchanges.' The effectiveness of such a community of interest hinges upon the combination of information sharing in the past and the efficiency at which it operates during a crisis, especially inside today's media pressure-cooker environment.

The Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model 2.0 was designed precisely with this in mind. The DRM is an architectural pattern that agencies can apply to assess and design their data architectures for integration, interoperability and information sharing.

Aggressively implementing the FEA DRM demonstrates the readiness of an agency's data architecture and its ability to support a COI in a crisis.

Let's drill down into a specific COI'one concerned with stopping terrorists from crossing borders. That COI requires interagency, multimodal biometrics watch lists. Multimodal biometrics allows an identification system to work without being dependent on a single type of biometrics, such as fingerprints, but supports multiple types, including iris, facial recognition or DNA. 'Watch-listing' is the management of a list of 'entities of interest,' such as a person or vehicle that requires special handling instructions by screening organizations.

A watch list is the pointy end of the information-sharing spear, because the shared information has both serious ramifications and the need for immediate implementation. The ramifications for those who are watch-listed can range from being interviewed to detainment or worse. Consequently, the accuracy of multimodal biometrics, as compared with biographical information or biographics, is essential to reducing and eventually eliminating errors on watch lists. Adding multimodal biometrics to watch lists demonstrates that officials are paying attention to the fidelity of the data in an information sharing transaction.

Perfecting crisis management and multimodal biometrics watch lists are the vanguard for fulfilling the promise of the 9/11 Commission report. So far we have failed families of our 9/11 victims on this issue because the task has been too amorphous to grab hold of.

But birds flying across borders and bomb makers sleazing out of caves are not amorphous. They are the new faces of information sharing. The cost of inaction is just too high. Let's step up and do information sharing right. Remember that birds can fly anywhere and caves can hide almost anything.

Michael Daconta, former metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department, is Chief of Enterprise Data Management for Oberon Associates Inc.

About the Author

Michael C. Daconta ([email protected]) is the Vice President of Advanced Technology at InCadence Strategic Solutions and the former Metadata Program Manager for the Homeland Security Department. His new book is entitled, The Great Cloud Migration: Your Roadmap to Cloud Computing, Big Data and Linked Data.


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