New GSA site eases social media concerns

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

A newly-launched website targeted to web-savvy feds working in small agencies gives those departments new tools to use the power of Web 2.0 social media.

Since August, the website has been in “beta” release, according to Gwynne Kostin, director of the General Services Administration’s Center for New Media & Citizen Engagement, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

“What this is is not earth-shattering, except we’re doing it in government,” she told the Fed Talks 2010 conference yesterday. “It’s a simple software-as-service storefront. What federal agencies can do is go to the storefront, and they can get a blog, they can get wikis, they can get discussion forums. And they can get them in a few minutes, and they don’t even need a credit card.”


By now, most everyone involved in social media within the government knows that it was the General Services Administration that paved the way for agency use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and dozens of other sites by hammering out user agreements that are compatible with the special security and legal priorities common to the federal government. Since then, GSA has pioneered other web innovations, such as a government-only web URL shortener, and the use of applications to support agency contests like “apps for healthy kids.”

Kostin says the new website is chock full of tools at the cutting edge of social media. And she says there are definite pluses for agencies who tap into the site’s resources.

“It’s free, it’s hosted within the government cloud space, so it’s secure, it’s (section) 508 compliant, which means it meets accessibility requirements…it’s customizable, and we’re also providing statistics, which is an added value.”

Web statistics provide key metrics used to manage websites, including the number of times a web page is accessed each day.

She says ultimately the goal is to remove some of the mystery and the hassle of using web 2.0 tools, saying, “we’ve cleared away a lot of the issues around policy, and no one has to have software, no one has to have servers. They don’t have to worry about the security of those servers, so we’ve really taken those pieces out of the mix.

Kostin concludes the site is going to be in “beta” for some time to come, but is available to any federal employee or agency with a .gov or other federally related internet address.

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