Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Last week I was in Seattle, Washington, to participate in the launch of the Gates-funded geospatial technology project for Sub-Saharan Africa recently awarded to the CGIAR (more on this later) and in the “Statistics from Space” meeting.

Sean Gorman from FortiusOne, one of the fellow participants, wrote this very interesting summary of the meeting.

That’s the number of e-mail messages that tried to reach our network in the month of September!

That’s right! The 2nd quarter of 2008 saw a total of almost ninety million email messages addressed to CGIAR staff!…And the numbers follow a steep upward trend spam(look at the graph). Of course, not all of these messages are legitimate emails; the upward spam trend continues as reported in May 2008, but the real news in this quarter was the increase of viruses trying to come into the CGIAR…almost two million (2,000,000!!) viruses were removed by Symantec in September alone (the antivirus tool used by CGNET, our communication provider)!

The CGIAR has now over 9,600 mailboxes and we operate in over 120 locations. The complexities of keeping our large, dispersed network in working orders were discussed in our latest IT Managers meeting.

Scary stats: almost 90% of the almost 90 million messages sent to the CGIAR in this second quarter were spam, 7% were viruses and only 5% (that’s right only 5%, but still 1.39 million) were valid messages …and these are the only ones that came into our mailboxes. The dangers of not having a good “gatekeeper” which allows only the “good e-mails” in were revealed in this Symantec press release.

So next time you get a rogue spam message, that sneakingly makes its way through our spam and virus filters, no matter how annoying…. think of what would happen if our friendly gatekeeper were not there!

But there is something you can do to help at least slow down this upward trend: when you register to a non-work related site (be that Facebook, Flicker, LinkedIn…) avoid using your address. If you are unsure, ask your IT department.

single-treeThe ShareFair scheduled for January 2009 will be another step in our path towards finding innovative ways to do our jobs more efficiently and effectively.

The most asked question when we try to introduce Knowledge Sharing approaches is: “If this does not help me do my job, don’t talk to me about it!”. Fair enough! We are all busy, some very very busy. We have no time for “nice to have’s”, we only want to learn about things, those “need to have’s” that are going to make us work smarter and have more impact.

Well, Knowledge Sharing is about learning to do things more smartly…and have fun doing it! There is always a better way of doing things, you can always find someone who is facing an issue like yours, who has been through the same situation and has learned a good way to deal with it….as the old saying goes…it is not what you know…it is who you know! A single tree does not make a forest!

So, we create opportunties to learn from others, to build parthernships, not to waste energy, time and money trying to reinvent the wheel (and getting frustrated while doing it!).

We have been doing a number of things already: from designing, developing and delivering a very succesful Knowledge Sharing workshop, and giving an opportunity to our staff to learn and experiment to carrying out a second workshop with a partner: FAO KS Workshop, to planning to deliver more next year.

We have been working collaboratively to develop a Knowledge Sharing toolkit to empower those who want to find ways of doing things differently.

We have been extending the application of innovative knowledge sharing approaches to improve the impact of our research along the whole cycle.

So, it is not a once off experiment. It is part of a set of strategic interventions.

The Knowledge Fair in January is a new step towards building the momentum in the CGIAR to use knowledge sharing approaches to do things smart!