Headlines: August 17th, 2011

Central and local government are failing to benefit from the growing power of social media. During the recent riots, rioters and the public used social media extensively, but public bodies made little use of it to get their messages across.

The attitudes of politicians and officials to social media revealed during the riots were confirmed in a survey by of 500 public sector IT staff by Axway which found that 14 per cent admitted that they have no social media policy for employees to follow.

A major factor in the under use of social media is the fear that employees may mis-represent their organisations or disclose sensitive information. A survey by the Society of IT Management, found that 67 per cent of IT managers in the public sector blocked employee access to social media sites altogether. Security was cited as the main concern.

This continued resistance to engage with social media becomes less defensible in the light of its growing power. Facebook is used by half the UK population, equating to 30 million. Twitter is used by 13 per cent of the population which is about 7 million people.

The power of social media engagement has been recognised by the Public Administration of Canada which has just launched a global social media site called Public Service Without Borders. This has created a virtual community of professionals involved in all aspects of public administration.

Stuart Feargrieve, MD, Axway said: “ICT security policies are a moving target at the moment, especially with social networking, which is changing and evolving all the time. However, setting out consistent clear policies across the whole of the UK and empowering staff to make the right decisions will be key to their success.”