#PSFBuzz Unlocking Access and Developing A Web 2.0 Usage Policy

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Public Sector, Social Media, Standards, Technology

Carl Haggerty (@carlhaggerty) was on immediately following the Browsealoud chap to talk to us about how to go about unblocking access to web 2.0 sites and developing appropriate policies around them.

Some of this information can also be found in Carl’s blog post 1 rule and 6 steps to embracing social media in local government, so it might well be worth having a look at that as well.

Again, my notes are fairly sparse for this one, but I’ll do the best I can… firstly, Carl advised us all to look at his handout for Social Media and Online Participation Policy and guidelines (and supplementary information) — but that will have to be the subject of another blog post as there’s a lot to get through there — and help him improve it.

The Policy

He asked what happens if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all this social media stuff will just go away and pass us by. If you try and do that, it won’t pass you by, you’ll get caught out — and he cited the example of Plymouth Council banning twitter and the media circus this generated.

Either way, whether you want to ban access to all social media sites or start to open up access to them, you need to have a policy. And in order to get a policy, you need to start with the right people: you need to get high-up input from HR, Finance, ICT, Audit, Communications, a “driver” and ideally someone like the Leader or Chief Executive.

You also need to start asking the question why when people start saying things like ‘we should ban access’, ‘it’s just a waste of time’, ‘it distracts from proper work’, or ‘it’s just a social thing’. These aren’t technical issues: they are management issues: it’s just as much a distraction from ‘proper’ work having people stood chatting by the coffee machine…

And then you need to consider what a range of other points for your policy:

  • it could support mobile/ flexible working
  • it supports modern public service delivery
  • it is about solving problems rather than using specific technologies (if you base it all on a specific technology, by the time your policy is approved, that technology might be out of date)
  • even if you ban it within your networks, you can’t stop it happening (e.g. the famous Plymouth tweet — which seems fine to me from a Councillor; wouldn’t be from an Officer — wasn’t sent on the council network anyway)

And how long does it take to get the policy sorted? It took 10 months from the time of initial consultation and review to more formal council policy acceptance. You have to keep repeating the message — and don’t be afraid to talk to your Chief Executive.

You should already have a lot of policies which cover areas around this — internet usage, data protection, privacy, freedom of information, transparency, principles of behaviour and so on.

[Question from Graham Jordan (@digidrummer): a lot of guidance is driven from the perspective of the author or publisher -- should we not have more guidance on from a consumer perspective -- for example help on understanding what you can do with stuff that is licensed under different creative commons options; response from Carl was that's a good question and maybe we should!]

Carl suggested that we should all ask ourselves whether there was actually anything stopping us implementing his draft social media policy now.

He also suggested that the biggest thing in terms of impact is to generate a huge interest in how the organisation should embrace social media — then you’ll obviously get more people feeding into it! It’s a case of recognising social media as another, legitimate, channel, understanding both that channel and your customers.

Although sometimes you might need to ask whether it is a policy blocking access to social media, or just some particular people

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