IT4KM

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On 22/23 August 2007, a hand full of colleagues from the UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre invited 3 IT- and knowledge management experts for a brainstorming session on new ways and innovative IT-tools to support Community of Practice (CoP) facilitation and development. Specific solutions should be found for WaterWiki 2.0,

Based on the outcomes of this 2-day retreat, the major recommendation was to try out new ways: Implement some suitable new-generation web 2.0 tools during a test phase for selected BRC practices.


Contents

Objectives & Participants

The objectives of the 2-day retreat on IT-tools for Knowledge Management (IT4KM) (UNDP/BRC Bratislava, 22-23 Aug 2007) included:

  • To exchange experiences (at concept-level, not IT-technical) on existing platforms/approaches to IT4KM (in the framework of International Development Cooperation, UN(DP) and/or concrete projects)
  • To discuss (potential) use and application of Wikis and other “Web 2.0 technology” for KM, CoP-facilitation, on-line collaboration/communities, etc.
  • To discuss opportunities and constraints in view of linking/integration of different tools and/or platforms (also with “conventional” websites, e.g. http://europeandcis.undp.org)


Participants


Outcomes of the Retreat

Summary of Findings and Recommendations from the 2-day Retreat

IT-solutions (modules) must be simple and as intuitive as possible
Rean's example: A "door handle" signals automatically to people what they are expected to do..
The striving web 2.0 solutions (blogs, facebook, Google Search/Earth/Picasa, etc.) are leading examples of how also "non-IT-power-user" can be tought using "advanced features" (like installing an aquarium on your facebook-page and sharing fishes, like tuning an RSS feed on My Yahoo, etc.) -
Then why not using exactly such approaches for CoP-facilitation, as tools for knowledge exchange and on-line collaboration etc.


Open-source vs. commercial software
There are many quite powerful and "fun-to-use" applications in the Internet, which can be applied and tuned to specific uses and user-groups (e.g. a UNDP CoP). many of them only need limited IT-support (e.g. at the beginning for fine-tuning), and are self-explaining and easy to maintain applications.
Because they are open-source, they often
  1. are easy to adapt to a specific environment,
  2. except for "exotic" modules, profit from the fact that the user-community itself is constantly testing and further developing/upgrading them, and developing new extensions,
  3. since being intended for one specific functionality, they are well tuned to inter-link or communicate with other software and modules (e.g. API or RSS), and last but not least
  4. they are free of charge and often under the GNU license scheme.
Corporate (e.g. Microsoft) solutions on the other hand may be well advanced and (most of the time) inter-linkable amongst each other (e.g. MS Outlook and Sharepoint) - but they cost and often cannot (easily) communicate with other (e.g. non-Microsoft) applications; but even more importantly, the flexibility in terms of functionalities and "look and feel" often is not comparable to open-source applications (and the very fact that there are different solutions available).


A huge variety of different, well-working and tested modules are available for free
Many can be "tweaked" to individual needs, linked up to each other via API or RSS, and also made communicating with UNDP's existing web-servers and applications
Use "the power of the vast web community" developing and constantly fine-tuning such applications and modules - There's no need (for most parts) to develop from scratch own CMS-based applications


Corporate UNDP (OIST) doesn't aim at providing a one-size-fits-all solution
The corporate/HQ implemented practice workspaces and other tools are meant for mainly HQ->field communication / provision of information and knowledge. As basis for regional or even project database there are a number of limitations:
  • non-UNDP mebres have no access
  • rather slow since working on centralized servers
  • not really suitable for CoPs-facilitation and support (other than global & UNDP-internal) or even projects
OIST therefore decided NOT to try to develop full-fledged integrated solutions for such applications, but rather supports individual solutions and their integration with existing "classic webpages"


Individual/specialized modules more powerful than integrated solutions
Specific tools or on-line applications are specifically powrful to do specific functions very well (e.g. facebook for social networking, Google groups as discussion forum, MediaWiki as platform for collaborative text-development); but ech of them has its shortfalls for other applications (e.g. CoP-member management with a Wiki). Integrated and one-size-fits-all platforms do exist, offered mostly commercially (e.g. Sharepoint), but they come with a variety of compromises, limitations and "givens".
The trend of the striving web 2.0 development seems to rather aim for single-functionality modules that are able to exchange information back and forth, or can even be linked together giving the user a similar "look and feel".


Concrete recommendations for UNDP/BRC
  1. Adopt the "web 2.0 approach" to IT-tools and development: Single and powerful modules for specific applications or needs, linked together via API or RSS
  2. Keep a "toolkit of ready modules" that can be easily adapted to the needs of the individual CoPs, rather than aiming at a single-shape platform or even self-developed CMS
  3. Aim for open-source and free rather than licensed IT-modules
  4. Use readily available (open-source & free) software modules, tweaked to BRC's own needs, rather than developing specialized applications based on CMS on its own
  5. UNDP headquarters are not aiming at providing corporate solution(s) for CoP-support and IT-applications; BRC therefore needs to develop its own approach(es)
  6. Aiming at adopting and testing new "web 2.0" applications, it seems most efficient for BRC to hire a specialist (web 2.0 geek) to support analysis, implementation, testing and roll-out of application



THE WAY FORWARD


Detailed Discussion Recordings

IT4KM Brainstorming - on general needs and requirement for IT-tools (in support of CoP-interaction, facilitation, development...)

IT4KM Tools - Blogs, Wikis, discussion lists, social networking tools (facebook, elgg), white boards, tag-clouds, CMS, interactive maps, etc etc; and what they can and cannot do

UNDP Intranet workspace - opportunities and limitations of the platform(s) that UNDP already is offering

Sharepoint - a Microsoft application chosen and implemented in the 3 Asia & Pacific Regional Centres (Bangkok, Colombo, Fiji)

LearningTree.com


Solutions & Modules (pros & cons)

MAYBE THIS SECTION IS REDUNTANT WITH IT4KM Tools..?? (Juerg.staudenmann 09:57, 29 Aug 2007 (CEST))

E-mail list (Group e-mail)

Discussion Forum

Blogs

Wikis

Social networking tools

CMS (document/object repository & management)

Tagging and Taxonomy

Maps

Newsletter



What makes IT4KM tools tick?

Chosing and implementing the right new "cool tool" is one challenge, whether the CoP will adopt and use it another. One session focused on the enabling environment that makes IT-tools and solutions being used (or not).


Steps needed to identify/develop/implement a new IT-solution for CoP-support & development

Designing the Platform

Specifications for Community of Practice Platform  Cop schematic.doc


Chosing / deciding on the platform
  1. Commercial
    • Positive
    • Negative
    • Examples: ELDIS. Expended siginficant resources in absence; ..?
  1. Free (Open-Source)
    • Positive
      • Customization
      • Freedom (from finances) to experiment
    • Negative

Concrete Next Steps to further develop...

...IT4KM WaterWiki 2.0

...IT4KM Private Sector Involvement CoP space

...IT4KM IW:LEARN Improvements

Resources & Links

External "cool websites"

thematically or geographically close

Meda Water - Euro-Mediterranean Information System on know-how in the Water sector

WISE - Water Information System for Europe

Environment for Europe Partnership Database

FAO Aquastat

DGroups - ??

UN Water

How-to-Guide on Energy - UNDP/BRC

Portal to support policy development for e-Inclusion - site that combines wiki & forum. Good section "How to use this site".

Other Wiki-solutions

Wiki-Matrix - Feature list of many different Wiki platforms. You can select as many as you want and compare...

Coastal Wiki

Gender Training Wiki - incl. Google Maps

Bioenergy Wiki

CSA Wiki - UNDP BRC

Epedia

FloodRisk-Net


Other "Water-Wikis"

The Sailor's WaterWiki - nice name ;-) which seems kind of logic, but focuses on sailing

Wikia's "WaterWIki" - The newest kid on the block (and so far pretty empty - still): a commercial Wiki-project that offers Wiki-spaces for all kind of topics; based on WikiMedia and implemented by the same team behind Wikipedia.

PBwiki "WaterWIki - Noha Gaber's Wiki: Focusing on the Mediterranean Region (incl. Arab States) - also still pretty empty


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