As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Technological Ideas

One of my professors this semester challenged us to come up with three ways to use technology to help solve problems. He instructed us to post our ideas publicly through a blog, Web site, or other technology. Here, I discuss three simple yet timesaving and helpful technological ideas to improve internal communications within the U.S. Coast Guard.

1. Use social bookmarking to share Internet sites used on the job.

Coworkers often need to access and share online resources during the course of their work. Social bookmarking sites, like http://del.icio.us, enable employees to publicly tag, organize, access and share their favorite Web sites and online resources easily with others. Instead of personnel creating individual privately held lists of Internet favorites and then sending links through e-mail to share sites, they can post their favorite links to their del.icio.us page. Coworkers can then access the links from any Internet accessible computer whether they are logged into a USCG computer or not.

This resource can be invaluable during a search and rescue case when responders and watchstanders must collaborate and communicate from various locations. It is also helpful to easily share Internet resources when training new personnel or starting a new job.

2. Use a wiki to update policies, directives, publications and manuals.

These written documents are the foundation of the USCG. Printing and keeping these documents up to date and correct requires time, money and constant maintenance. Placing the documents into an Intranet-based wiki would facilitate this maintenance. A wiki will not only make the management of the documents easier but also will permit employees out in the field to make comments and suggest updates and corrections. Although only authorized personnel would have the final approving authority over changes, this technology will open the dialogue between field and administrative personnel.

3. Use micro-blogging to record, track and monitor a collaborative conversation.

In the USCG, keeping everyone informed of an urgent, time-sensitive situation is a constant battle. When a search and rescue, pollution, homeland security or law enforcement case arises, many people need to be involved simultaneously. Using a micro-blogging tool, like http://twitter.com/, will allow multiple parties to engage in the conversation at one time.

Creating separate private Twitter accounts based on an event, situation or crisis and inviting authorized personnel to join and follow the conversation can drastically improve communications. Personnel can be invited from the USCG chain of command as well as from other external partners like state officials, local responders, and various community services. Those who are handling the case can follow the Tweets, stay abreast of the situation, and get valuable feedback from involved parties without making multiple phone and/or radio calls. Additionally, because the conversation is electronically recorded and logged, there is less repetition of messages and less risk of missing or forgetting important information. This collaborative and openly transparent dialogue will quickly connect responders, watchstanders and leadership up and down the response chain.

Further benefits of Twitter are that each user can choose how they want to be notified (i.e. via an Internet based Twitter feed, through e-mail or via cellular text message) and can easily start and stop the notifications from the Internet or from a cell phone. Additionally, each user controls his/her Twitter account and can turn the service on or off to control the amount of information received . This process will allow for flexibility (i.e. vacations, out-of-town, meetings) and increase personal accountability for notifications.