Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breaking Down Barriers—Managing successful information sharing

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by CAPT David F. Sanders, JAGC, USN, Legal Counsel, National MDA Coordination Office Executive Secretariat.

Effective information sharing employs a combination of collection, storage,
dissemination, and analysis, resulting in an understanding of what is happening, and what it means.

Trust is the underpinning of information sharing. Systems security must be inherent in information transfer to merit trust. Participants in the information flow must trust and be trusted in the proper protection of information and sources. Sharing information, therefore, dispels any notions of secrecy, opens the curtain of government operation, engenders public confidence, and reinforces the concept of ownership by the people.

First, government must make information available to the public. Secondly,
government must be positioned to receive information from the public. Finally, government must effectively share information “within the castle.”

The “push-button” expectation for instant information demands instant action and instant sharing. Juxtaposed thereto are various barriers that can stall or prevent successful information sharing.

Barriers to Information Sharing
While each type of barrier hinders the proposed sharing, not all barriers are bad. Therefore, the goal is not to eliminate barriers, but to manage those barriers effectively.

Natural Barriers: The first “natural” barrier to information sharing is that individuals may have a tendency to work alone. To overcome this tendency, measures of success must encourage, recognize, and reward information sharing and teamwork, not penalize it.

Additionally, the concept of “information is power” and holding, hoarding, or manipulating information accruing to the public benefit cannot be tolerated.

Bureaucratic Barriers: While serious information sharing efforts are underway within government, they are not yet institutionalized. There must be a clear mandate to share, an acceptance of the practice to share, and reinforcement of the policy and practice via education, evaluation, recognition, and reward.

Legal Barriers: There are myriad legal barriers to information sharing. An efficient new barrier resolution plan must include a formal procedure to resolve information sharing disputes, modeled after prevailing alternative dispute resolution practices, including identifying a final arbitrator with the authority to resolve the dispute.

Administrative Barriers: These impediments include classification of information and resulting restrictions on transferability. This barrier can be resolved through uniformity of classification, a common understanding of the applicability of the classifications, and a common-sense approach to initial classification application to information.

Technical Barriers: Technology in itself is not a barrier to information sharing; barriers are those restrictions placed upon technology. Barrier management must begin in the design of the technology system that delivers the information.

The Goal
Management of barriers to information sharing is a systemic problem that requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach, beginning with a clear federal mandate to share information to the greatest extent possible and permissible under law and regulation.

For more information:
The Maritime Domain Awareness Information Exchange: http://www.mda.gov/.

The National Maritime Domain Awareness Coordination Office: http://www.gmsa.gov/index.html.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2010.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.