Thursday, July 24, 2008

District of Columbia Launches New Intranet

The District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) today announced the release of a new Intranet portal that will provide District employees a broad array of new tools and transform the ways they communicate and work together.

The new portal will open to a home page that presents both Mayoral news and up-to-date news releases from all District agencies. For the first time, employees will have instant access to all the breaking news that affects their jobs and their lives as residents of the District metropolitan area—everything from health advisories from the Department of Health to road work announcements from the Department of Transportation to tips on summer fun from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Also available right from the homepage will be a brand-new video training center. The portal will now provide video of virtually every training class conducted in the District government—from management training required for MSS employees to Continuing Legal Education to computer classes. Now employees will be able to complete training requirements—and take all the elective job enrichment courses they want—on their own schedules. No longer will they have to miss critical classes because of meetings, illness or vacation.

The home page will also link to a fast and multi-faceted search capability. For example, employees will be able to search for any other District official and get a handy information page complete with agency, title, contact information and even a picture of the individual and a map to his or her office. Employees will also be able to search for any address or point of interest in the District and get a picture of the building along with a detailed map of its location.

Employees will also be able to use the new portal to obtain and provide information about themselves, their agencies, and important issues affecting the District government. The portal offers a "DCpedia" that is modeled on Wikipedia and uses the same technology. Like Wikipedia, DCpedia is a free, open-content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of the user community—in this case, the more than 39,000 employees of the District government. Any user of the new Intranet can post information to DCpedia, and anyone can edit it. The system contains an automatic check against misleading information—each entry identifies the time, date, and individual submitting it.

Equally exciting is a new common platform for document review and editing. With this new feature, employees in different units, agencies, even buildings, will be able to collaborate on documents like contracts, MOUs, legislation, regulations, press releases and more, without the need for long meetings or extended email chains.

The new home page will be a gateway to a wide variety of other resources. It will connect directly to all agency Intranet websites and to frequently used information sources like the District Personnel Manual. The home page will also link to critical citywide applications like HR, the PASS procurement system, the citywide email system and more.

"With our new Intranet portal, we’re aiming to make work life in the District richer, more efficient, and also more exciting," said District of Columbia City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. "We’re creating a virtual community and an open market of ideas and resources to empower employees so that they can deliver better informed and higher quality service to our customers."

In building the new portal, OCTO used flexible, low-cost open-source technology to make the portal functionally versatile and reduce expenditures. The choice of open-source technology drove the total cost of the portal down from an original estimate of $10 million to a final total of only $500,000.

“The new Intranet is just one example of OCTO’s ongoing efforts to deploy the most cost-effective and innovative technologies to enhance all areas of District operations,” said District Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra. “We are leveraging the successes of consumer technology to create opportunities for collaboration and to impact productivity District-wide.”

Learn more about DC government technology initiatives and resources.