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Collaboration (1) vs Beaurocracy (0) | Wikipedia & CIA Factbook example

Here is a striking example of the power of collaborative ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach to information preparation, versus traditional top down beaurocratic approach.

I was reading the Obama speech in Ghana, and his references to the current and previous governments, including Jerry Rawlings which rang a history bell for me, so thought I would read up.  First off I checked what used to be my old favourite the CIA factbook, and it has not been updated since sometime before Dec 2008 [note highlight].

On the other hand a quick visit to Wikipedia had more than enough detail being up to date, including information about Obamas trip dd 10th July in the footnotes.  I copied one section from the history area below, and highlighted the notes about the recent election in 2009, something the CIA has not figured out yet apparently.

The efficiency and effectivness of the Wikipedia approach compared to the old style management and approval processes is stark.  [Incidentally, surely the CIA beaurocracy would at least update their site for the countries that their boss is visting?]

In fairness to the CIA it is probably impossible to maintain an up to date encyclopedia type site such as the FactBook within the constraints and context of their mandate.  To open the CIA up to a Wikipedia approach would not make any sense.  I only use this example to display that collaborative and engagement of the broader network wins every time for information dissemination.

CIA Factbook – Ghana

Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. Ghana endured a long series of coups before Lt. Jerry RAWLINGS took power in 1981 and banned political parties. After approving a new constitution and restoring multiparty politics in 1992, RAWLINGS won presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, but was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term in 2000. John KUFUOR succeeded him and was reelected in 2004. Kufuor is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in upcoming Presidential elections, which are scheduled for December 2008.

Wikipedia – Ghana

Rawlings soon negotiated a structural adjustment plan with the International Monetary Fund and changed many old radical economic policies; the economy began to recover. A new constitution restoring multi-party politics was promulgated in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as president then and again in 1996 to serve a second term. The Constitution of 1992 prohibited him from running for a third term, so his party, the National Democratic Congress, chose his Vice President, John Atta Mills, to run against the opposition parties. Winning the 2000 elections, John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party was sworn into office as President in January 2001, and beat Mills again in 2004; thus, also serving two terms as President. In 2009, John Atta Mills took office as president with a difference of about 40,000 votes (0.46%) [23] between his party, the National Democratic Congress, and the New Patriotic Party, marking the second time that power had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, and securing Ghana’s status as a stable democracy.[24]

Written by Colin Henderson

July 11, 2009 at 16:28

2 Responses

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  1. Keep in mind that quite a lot of Wikipedia’s geographical articles start with CIA World Factbook. Hey the US government made this great free encyclopedia, why not use it!

    David Gerard

    July 11, 2009 at 19:40

  2. I don’t disagree about the quality of Factbook as I mentioned in the post. The suggestions is that collaberation and openness beats out a small devoted team in timliness – nothing more nothing less to my point.

    Colin Henderson

    July 11, 2009 at 20:34


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