Proceedings:CB1

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This page is part of the Proceedings of Wikimania 2006 (Index of presentations)

Diplopedia: Application of the Wiki Model for Collaborative Drafting in Foreign Affairs

Author Chris Bronk
Track Free Knowledge & Access to Information
License Heckert GNU.png GNU Free Documentation License (details)
About the author
Robert “Chris” Bronk, PhD is a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State. He is currently posted to the Office of eDiplomacy in Washington, D.C. In this position he serves as an internal expert on information technology policy and law, knowledge management, information security, interagency connectivity, and internal communications. He has served previously as Vice Consul in Mexico, covering border issues, counter-narcotics, and migration. During that assignment he also supported the visit of President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Summit of the Americas, a semi-annual meeting of the democratically-elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere.

In addition to his duties at the State Department, Dr. Bronk continues to maintain an academic career, publishing and speaking on information technology governance and management issues. His doctoral thesis, In Confidence: Information Technology, Secrecy, and the State, won the All-University Prize for its contribution to scholarship across disciplinary lines of importance to public policy. Previous to commencing his diplomatic career, he served as a consultant to the South Korean National Computerization Agency and Seoul Metropolitan Government on security and transparency issues regarding information technologies. Earlier in his academic career, he studied international relations at Oxford University and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Chris also holds considerable experience in software development, entrepreneurship, and business management. Prior to entering government service he worked in banking, pharmaceuticals, and publishing. He spent five years in the software industry, rising from a developer with a small startup firm to an executive position in Vivendi-Universal’s education division. Chris has considerable experience in the design, implementation, and maintenance of online courseware including participation in the development of the first accredited, distance-learning course for the instruction of foreign languages. He maintains significant skills in web technologies and recently managed the enterprise-wide deployment of wiki and blog software to support the Department of State’s knowledge management strategy.

Chris is married with one daughter and resides in Arlington, Virginia. He speaks fluent Spanish and is conversant in French and Korean.

Abstract
America’s diplomats are tasked with sending from overseas embassies and consulates reporting laden with added value beyond what may be read, seen, or heard in open sources by policymakers at home. To be effective, today's diplomat must convey a deeper understanding of his or her country beyond the international headlines. A contextually rich view of issues, infused with comments produced by conversations with government ministers, academics, and taxi drivers, is the desired deliverable to the institution. The information revolution brought to an end the summarizing by diplomats of the local news to Washington, however, it now permits individuals to collaborate electronically at global distances on shaping the perception of issues, trends, and events. A profoundly hierarchical organization, the Department of State's employees have engaged in collaborative narration for creating official reporting, with junior-level drafters producing documents for mid- and senior-level editors and approvers. Beyond this formal messaging between diplomatic posts and Washington has proliferated heavy traffic of horizontal messages delivered by email and web pages. While this communication has been a boon for the sharing of knowledge, it is haphazard and uneven in its delivery of desired content to intended recipients.

Recognizing that the Department’s employees carry a tremendous amount of unique experience and knowledge with them as they rotate through overseas and domestic assignments, deployment of knowledge capture technologies to collect and disseminate even a fraction of what is actually known. Wiki pages, which may be edited by any employee with demonstrable experience, offer a great deal of flexibility to a work force in constant motion. We do not seek to replicate the information contained within Wikipedia, but rather to answer 'What are the issues for Embassy Quito?' or 'What are the functions of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor?' A wiki for State is designed to harness the input of the organization to explain what it is and what it does. In an agency that can ill-afford reinvention, the wiki model, one of widely-available, electronically searchable textual information, may serve as a valuable tool is translating corridor knowledge generated slowly over time, to institutional knowledge available via computer. The Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy is now engaging in a pilot process to deploy an internal wiki space, entitled Diplopedia, to test the concept of a wiki as an institutional knowledge repository and information sharing tool. By the summer of 2007, we will complete an evaluation of this pilot and look forward to sharing our observations with the Wikimedia Foundation.

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