The big buzz in the field of Information Management in government these days is “Information Sharing.” Why? Information sharing is seen as necessary to safeguard our nation from terrorists. Of course, it is also seen as important to solve other societal challenges ranging from identity theft and fraud detection to avian flu bio-surveillance and better health care.
In thinking about what an effective information sharing system should really look like I have noticed a very seminal paradox that I think will force a shift in the “think”.
The Information Sharing Paradox
If you can’t share everything with everyone and,
you can’t ask everyone every question every day,
then how is someone going to find something?
The missing piece of the puzzle is “discovery.” If you know who to ask for what, then information can be shared – and shared in a more precise and relevant manner. This also translates into less risk of data escaping, which makes this model better from a privacy and civil liberties protection point of view.
The card catalog at the library is a pretty good example of discovery. No one roams the halls to look for a certain book; they go to the card catalog first. And if some shelf at the library were to receive a book without a corresponding card placed in the card catalog … well I would say that document (book) is basically “undiscoverable.”
Implementing information sharing will require solving discovery first. And solving for discovery will substantially redefine (and in fact simplify) the information sharing challenges. Therefore, discoverability is where we should be focusing our policy thinking and resources.
Let’s start talking about discoverability.
Related post: No Need to Over Share