Government workers want social tools – but the IT dept doesn't get it

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Huddle has done a study on the interest in social networks inside government departments and found that, well, they just don’t “get it”. At least the managers don’t, but the workers do.

Their Social Collaboration in Public Sector study was carried out amongst 202 local authority officials this July. It found that despite social networks like Facebook being banned in more than half of respondents’ organisations (56%), public sector workers “are eager to take advantage of it in the workplace.” A third (31%) would like to set up a social network for their own local organisation, while 38 per cent would support a government-wide social network. The trouble is, IT departments hear ‘Facebook’ and run for the hills.

This just goes to show that social startups are going to find it hard to get the ear of government. However, the answer might lie in environmental arguments.

Only 15 per cent of of those surveyed thought the Government is doing enough to curb carbon emissions, even as they admit to extensive travel to meetings (16%) and slow take-up of video-conferencing (14%). In other words, social tools could cut these unnecessary trips and unhelpful, non a-synchronous technologies. If you already “know” what your team in Manchester or Dundee is doing, because you watch their passive “news feed”, then who needs another meeting, right?

Huddle wouldn’t be the only UK startup to benefit if government, central and local, “got” the benefits of social networking. Trampoline Systems is another notable startup aiming at big corporates and government IT depts.

  • Ben Werdmuller

    As well as Elgg, which just named as the best open source social networking platform by InfoWorld, and would allow government departments to keep full control of their (potentially sensitive) data.

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  • Tamlyn

    The term “Social Network” is misleading and outdated. People equate social networks with bebo, myspace & facebook. Huddle is not a social network, it is a suite of socially enabled applications – applications that make people more productive by embracing their’s innate social abilities.

    Eventually all software will be “social” and it will cease to be a buzzword, just as “multimedia” has done.

  • Sarah Hammond

    Timely! I’m just in the middle of collecting data for my research on what I have deemed “so-called social software”. I’m surveying public librarians the length & breadth of this land and across the Atlantic to ask them about their use of blogs to promote their library. In the UK I am getting a lot of results back that suggest exactly the same as this research by huddle. I had to copy and paste my survey into a plaintext email for one librarian as their IT dept had blocked the survey link!
    If anyone is / knows a public librarian then please comment:

  • Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

    Hi Tamlyn, you are absolutely right – Huddle is not a social network per se. We were just curious what people in the public sector thought about having their social network (secure, approved by IT dept, but as easy to use as Facebook or Bebo etc.) in the workplace.

  • Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

    Sarah, I know what you mean. That’s one of the reasons why we had only 202 responses to our survey – damn content filtering ;-)

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