Feds launch online gossip channel

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The Federal Government is encouraging other Australian government agencies to have a chat and swap ideas in a virtual smoko ring it is calling the National Knowledge Network, or natKnet.com.

Launched under the direction of the Technology in Government Committee, natKnet is designed to provide a portal for vendors to send information to targeted groups within all levels of government, and allow government workers to swap ideas, case studies and other information.

Signing up, users select areas of interest, with email delivered accordingly. The Committee hopes to have around 2000 to 3000 government users and about 50 vendors using the system within 12 months.

Secretary of the Technology in Government committee, Michael Matchett, said up to 80 percent of an organisation's knowledge lives in people's heads.

"What we are trying to do with this National Knowledge Network is to ensure that the conversation that currently takes place in the pub... or that conversation in the smoking room or outside the building is taken out of those select gatherings and given to everyone through this system," said Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott at the unveiling of the project in Sydney.

Matchett, said the system will initially be used to deliver vendor information and case studies, with the "chat" features expected to be turned on mid-way through next year.

He said the idea for a forum originally came from a question asked as part of the Government Technology Productivity Awards process. He said a lot of useful information was provided by asking what advice nominated projects would pass on to others.

Matchett said that the 40 government agencies and six vendors that were first to sign up for the pilot program may have "got to the party early," with little content available.

He said government departments are usually shy about sharing their case studies and so the natKnet program will be run in conjunction with Idea of the Month and Idea of the Year competitions to encourage use of the service.

The Committee for Technology in Government will also be promoting the service throughout Australia's government ranks. The Committee decided to charge a subscription fee of $25 per user per year to eliminate the need for sponsorship, he said.

Amit Sharma, CEO of NatKnet developers Exeige said the company pumped a lot of its own resources into the project, with the view to using it as a reference site to underline the technology's commercial potential.

He said the portal, which runs on Sun's J2EE java Platform, was ready for pilot within six months of the project being awarded.

Sharma said the Exeige system tracks a user's habits and adjusts the content to suit them to deliver more relevant content.

User preferences and usage patterns will be stored in a registry run by Exiege. Exeige also holds the intellectual property rights to the system.

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