Many people in today’s world are familiar with Wikipedia, the free online collaborative encyclopedia. But, have you ever heard of Intellipedia?
Intellipedia is the Intelligence Community’s version of the famous encyclopedia. It is used by analysts, working groups, and engineers throughout the IC. Since its unveiling in 2006, Intellipedia has grown exponentially – with more than 1.5 million edits on the top secret network alone.
How It All Began
The catalyst for applying this revolutionary approach to collaboration in the Intelligence Community was a 2004 award-winning paper by CIA employee Calvin Andrus entitled, “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community.” The paper detailed the need for the IC to adapt to the increased pace of the world.
Intellipedia has grown into a rich tapestry of knowledge, collaboration, and cross-agency efforts.
In late 2005, the CIA’s Sean Dennehy spearheaded the initial Intellipedia effort, becoming the “pilot customer” for a wiki capability within the IC.
Intellipedia was formally announced to the Intelligence Community in April 2006. And while the CIA has been a vocal advocate of these capabilities, the CIA is only one of the many US intelligence, diplomatic, and military organizations that use Intellipedia on top secret, secret, and unclassified networks.
How Does It Work?
Intellipedia has grown into a valued repository of information that allows employees in any position (from analysts and engineers to librarians and HR specialists) to quickly learn about a wide variety of topics and issues important to the Intelligence Community and US Government. It also offers a powerful location for individuals from across the world to capture reporting as a crisis unfolds.
As a wiki, Intellipedia allows all authenticated users to aggregate information and knowledge by creating, editing, and discussing articles in an agency-neutral and topically-focused space. Unlike the world’s Wikipedia, Intellipedia is not restricted to encyclopedic-only content. Intellipedians are using the wiki, as well as other “web 2.0” tools, to improve communication and connect related data and efforts together.
Intellipedia provides a cost-effective platform to access expertise wherever it resides across the IC. It allows anyone to connect the who with the what.
“If you have expertise on a subject, you can contribute to a topical page with other experts working that issue in different organizations and immediately you’ve made a connection with others, who you may not have known otherwise,” said Don Burke of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. “Furthermore, more senior members of our Community can use Intellipedia to capture decades of knowledge which, without Intellipedia, would otherwise walk out the door when they retire.”
Intellipedia also helps address the problem of information discovery. Prior to Intellipedia, a lot of information remained inaccessible in shared drives and e-mail folders. But, information on Intellipedia is easily found by search engines and readily available across the Community. Intellipedia also is a bonus for new Intelligence Community members, who expect the IC to use modern information tools.
“The seamless integration between the way we use Internet tools at home and at work enable us to be a more effective organization,” said an another Intellipedian.
Marking Its Second Anniversary
As Intellipedia nears its second anniversary, it continues to grow rapidly. Since July 2007, Intellipedia has grown from 20,000 registered users to more than 35,000. Intellipedia reached 1 million total edits in September 2007. In March 2008, Intellipedia will pass 1.6 million edits. There are approximately 48,000 article pages and more than 200,000 total pages that help tie information together.
Intellipedia and other “web 2.0” tools available to the Intelligence Community are making individuals more productive and efficient. Intellipedia’s vibrant environment has played an important role in improving morale, unleashing creativity, and helping officers across the world feel more connected with their colleagues.
Every day, Intellipedia helps facilitate a hundred small wins as experts across each network connect with one another, identify relationships in data and topics, and capture historical knowledge that facilitates better decision-making today. It has grown into a rich tapestry of knowledge, collaboration, and cross-agency efforts.