EPA and Web 2.0 Technologies (2007 Memo)


Date: December 17, 2007

Subject: EPA and Web 2.0 Technologies

From: Molly A. O'Neill /s/, Assistant Administrator and Chief Information Officer, Office of Environmental Information

To: Assistant Administrators, General Counsel, Inspector General, Chief Financial Officer, Associate Administrators, Regional Administrators, Staff Office Directors, Deputy Assistant Administrators, Deputy Regional Administrators

It seems like everywhere I turn, there is a buzz about Web 2.0 technologies and their use at EPA. Although definitions vary, Web 2.0 includes interactive features and user-generated content such as blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, and Second Life. Web 2.0 is rapidly shaping how we will work with our partners and communicate with the public. In fact, in the Federal CIO Council we refer to the use of these tools in government as "Gov 2.0". The Deputy Administrator’s blog, Flow of the River, is a good example. Many of your staff may already be trying out these tools or thinking about using them.

Some of the Web 2.0 excitement was likely accelerated by OEI at our annual Environmental Information Symposium. It was an exciting week focused on "Enhancing Access to Environmental Information." As you have probably heard, the centerpiece of the conference was a 48-hour Puget Sound Information Challenge with Bill Ruckelshaus, Chair of the Leadership Council for the Puget Sound Partnership and former EPA Administrator. One of the goals of this effort was to "learn by doing" using Web 2.0 technology, gaining insights into what works well and obstacles to sharing information internally and with our partners. That goal was certainly met but, of course, created an appetite for broader use of these technologies.

Based on feedback from the Environmental Information Symposium, conversations with the EPA web community (including a Web Workgroup subcommittee that is exploring various technologies) and our colleagues across the federal government, Lisa Lybbert, Associate Administrator for Public Affairs, and I recognize the demand for internal and external use of Web 2.0. It seems that the best place to quickly facilitate Agency-wide use is on the EPA Intranet. Consequently, OEI has already begun to set up the necessary infrastructure for Intranet access to certain Web 2.0 technologies. We hope to have this ready before the end of the 2nd Quarter, FY 2008.

Lisa and I are well aware that there are pockets of Web 2.0 in use already around EPA. I encourage you to distribute the attachment ("Initial Guidelines for the use of Web 2.0 at EPA") which provides some precursory guidelines for the use of Web 2.0 as we explore these technologies and put them to use at EPA.

The Web 2.0 possibilities are exciting and endless and I hope you share my enthusiasm! If you have any questions, please let me know. Your Web Council representatives are the best resource for your staff on this subject. Rick Martin of OEI, National Infrastructure Manager or Jeffrey Levy of the Office of Public Affairs, Acting National Web Content Manager are happy to help as well.

Attachment: Initial Guidelines for the use of Web 2.0 at EPA

We are all beginning to consider how we can best use Web 2.0 at EPA. As we learn, we need to keep the following in mind:

Like all federal agencies, we are grappling with many technical and policy issues. Early adopters may need to adjust to emerging approaches.

  1. Normal product review processes apply to using Web 2.0 for public access. Please discuss any ideas you have with your content and infrastructure coordinators (see the list at http://www.epa.gov/webgovernance/leadership.html http://www2.epa.gov/webguide/web-council-members-and-other-key-web-contacts). Through the Web Council, they will coordinate with both OEI and the Office of Public Affairs.
  2. We will be seeking guidance from the Office of General Counsel on whether the use of the Web 2.0 technologies raises any new legal issues. In the interim, please refer to OEI's existing information policies and guidance concerning the use of the Agency's website and the Internet, which are available athttp://intranet.epa.gov/oei/imitpolicy/policies.htm; Web-specific policies, orders, and memoranda are at http://yosemite.epa.gov/oei/webguide.nsf/policy/home.
  3. The Agency currently has only one external blog, "Flow of the River" (http://flowoftheriver.epa.gov)*, written by Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock. We’re learning a lot, and it’s possible we will have more blogs, but it will probably be several months.

* The Flow of the River Blog has evolved into "Greenversations", EPA's collection of public blogs.

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