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AFCEA 2.0

March 2008
By Kent R. Schneider

Web 2.0. Web 3.0. Webinars. Podcasts. Blogs. RSS feeds. Virtual environments. Social networking. This is the language of today’s Internet. It has not been the language of AFCEA, but that is changing. Our younger members are very comfortable in this environment. The rest of us in government and industry are trying to catch up and learn how to apply these technologies and this culture to our work. AFCEA is moving to help.

For some time, we have had an electronic version of SIGNAL Magazine. We now are using blogs to support an ongoing dialogue on articles in both the print and online versions of the magazine. We have added SIGNAL Connections, our e-newsletter, and recently we made SIGNAL Connections regional. We now have a separate feed to each region so that we can tailor announcements and regional/chapter news to each area. The SIGNAL staff now is conducting webinars and podcasts on a regular basis to support its communications mission.

Last month I told you about SOLUTIONS, the new series AFCEA is sponsoring to promote a more interactive dialogue between government and industry on issues of national and international importance. To support this series, we have created a collaborative environment within Google Groups to stimulate a continuous online dialogue before, during and after the events take place. The Defense Information Systems Agency will broadcast the plenary sessions from these events so that those who are remote from the Washington, D.C., area can participate. We will podcast the entirety of each event for subsequent listening and participation in the online environment.

We also have created a wiki that will house connections to all the technology related to the SOLUTIONS topics, but that we expect will grow to become the government’s ultimate source for information on current and emerging technologies.

Social networking is becoming part of the fabric of our lives. AFCEA now has established a presence in both Facebook and LinkedIn. We are beginning to use these environments to facilitate communications among the AFCEA staff and with our members globally. In fact, many AFCEA members already have joined the groups we have established in Facebook and LinkedIn. Look for AFCEA International in these environments and join the dialogue. Because one of the functions of AFCEA is to establish relationships among the key players in government and industry working in the national security community, these tools seem natural to support our mission.

We also are pursuing the use of virtual environments. Such environments are being used by both government and industry to collaborate for rehearsals, for training and education, and for facilitating communication. AFCEA International has established a presence in Second Life, a popular virtual environment. We have purchased land and are constructing buildings to support an education center, a conference center, an exhibits pavilion and an organizational collaboration center. We will use these resources to conduct distance learning in support of our Professional Development Center, to create virtual meetings and conferences, to offer exhibit space to our members that can stand alone or be linked to the technology wiki, and to provide collaboration space for every element of AFCEA—the headquarters, each staff element, committees, regions, chapters and the executive committee/board of directors.

Because we are distributed globally, this will provide the opportunity to offer services to all regions, all chapters and all members on a more consistent basis. Membership in committees can be broader because members can participate remotely on an equal basis. And, regions and chapters around the world will be able to participate better in the planning and execution process for AFCEA International-led events and initiatives. 

These are exciting times in the application of technology. Whether to support a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or coast guardsman deployed in a forward operating base in Iraq or Afghanistan; a staff planner in the Pentagon; an engineer in the defense industry; or a volunteer leader in AFCEA, Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies and the efficiencies they promote offer new tools and new capabilities to all of us.

AFCEA wants to be part of learning how best to apply these new tools in the national security community. We need your help. As this column suggests, we have begun the journey, but much remains to be done. If you have found solutions useful in the government or business environment that you are free to share, please do so by sending those ideas to me or to a member of the staff. An appropriate e-mail address to use for this purpose is president@afcea.org, as it directs e-mail to me and to the appropriate staff director. AFCEA always has been a member-oriented association, and now more than ever it will depend on its membership to help lead the way into the future.