Below is a quote from the Social media guidance for civil servants published one year ago on the 17th of May 2012.
- Communicate with citizens in the places they already are
- Use social media to consult and engage
- Use social media to be more transparent and accountable
- Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings
- Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation
- Expect civil servants to adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline)
In a single stroke, the civil service was freed from the restrictions imposed by IT security blocks which prevented them from using Social Media tools. It was understood – at the highest level – that a public service should not be prevented from communicating with those it serves. This is also true for the NHS, yet the pink screen of restriction is still encountered daily by those of us who choose to click on a You Tube link or respond to an emailed request to follow someone on Twitter.
Not everyone may not agree, but I believe that the argument over whether or not employees should endure restrictions on the tools available to them to perform their necessary duties has long been won. The time to pull down the fearwalls established to restrict access to Social Media tools has long since passed. The perceived risks of employees abusing their right to communicate freely on the internet are miniscule when put next to the benefits of free and frequent communication with colleagues, patients, experts and public. There are policies and processes in place to sanction inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour by staff. To apply a blanket restriction seems increasingly absurd – particularly when so many of us carry our own devices which are perfectly capable of accessing the full wealth of the internet.
I believe it is time to correct this historical error, as private industry and (even) central government have done. The Trust can only gain from taking down a wall which protects no one and obstructs all.
Here’s a reminder, you can communicate with me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on twitter @brynrwilliams, using the #CoGElections2013 hashtag or connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams