Government shuns social media

For all the government’s avowed commitment to using Web 2.0 technologies to improve citizen engagement, the majority of public sector organisations block employee access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a report from the Society of Information Technology Management.

Socitm says that security concerns, as well as fears for reputational damage and employee time wasting, lead 90% of government organisations to block Web 2.0 access to some degree, with 67% imposing a total ban.

This is preventing them from reaping the benefits of social media technology towards citizen engagement, cost-effective service delivery and employee empowerment, according to the IT leadership advisory group. It argues that public sector IT leaders must communicate these benefits to departmental leaders.

The report’s findings sit at odds with the lip service paid by the major political parties to using Web 2.0 in government.

A recently “leaked” strategy document outlining the present government’s long term IT strategy asserted that the adoption of Web 2.0 and social networking technologies by government departments would “help improve public sector interaction with citizens and businesses, providing opportunity for empowerment and participation, promoting transparency and improving services”. In response, the Conservative party said the plan did not make sufficient commitment to improving engagement through social media.

However, rightly or wrongly, security fears surrounding employee use of Web 2.0 sites are being stoked by security software vendors.

In a report published late last year, for example, security software vendor McAfee predicted that 2010 would see an uptick in malware threats that exploit such sites as Facebook and Twitter to infect PCs. The prediction roughly coincided with the announcement of a partnership between McAfee and Facebook to offer the social network’s 350 million a free trial of McAfee’s antivirus software.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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