Security Concerns Hamper Government's Shift to Web 2.0, Survey Finds

Are U.S. and European governments afraid of having the wrong kinds of Facebook friends? A survey from Ovum finds security fears are hampering the government's attempts at bringing the benefits of social media and Web 2.0 applications to the masses.

Concerns over data security are inhibiting government agencies from embracing Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and social networking, a survey by telecoms, IT services and software company Ovum discovered. The study, which involved 150 local and national government agencies across Europe and North America being surveyed, found that security is the most significant barrier to Web 2.0.
When asked about the main obstacles to implementation of Web 2.0 technologies, 44 percent of respondents cited security concerns. In Europe the figure was above 50 percent, suggesting that security is an even greater concern there than in North America. Jessica Hawkins, an associate analyst at Ovum, said as agencies seek to improve collaborative outcomes across departments, governments are beginning to explore the capabilities of Web 2.0.
"While 16 percent of the agencies surveyed have already adopted Web 2.0, a further 42 percent have plans to implement it in the future," she said. "However, data security continues to be a major barrier for some and indeed is by far the biggest obstacle. Fear around the security of data is a real issue, and the risk can never be entirely eliminated. This may go some way to explaining why 41 percent of agencies have no plans to adopt Web 2.0 in the foreseeable future."
Other obstacles cited by those surveyed included a lack of training resources (8 percent), restrictive regulations and a lack of "buy-in" from senior decision-makers (both 5 percent). Blogs, social networking and RSS feeds are the most popular Web 2.0 tools across the survey area. Some differences between Europe and North America exist, with European agencies seeing far greater take-up of wikis and blogs, whereas their North American counterparts are making more use of social networking.
Hawkins said local government agencies are using social networking and blogging more often, while there is greater take-up of wikis among agencies at the national level. Citizens and recipients of services are the most frequently cited target at all levels, the survey found. Despite current reservations, Hawkins said Ovum expects to see increasing Web 2.0 activity at larger government agencies over the next 12 months as security fears are gradually overcome and fresh attempts are made to connect with citizens.
The U.S. government currently operates a Website,, dedicated to social media and Web 2.0 in government. The site offers how-to videos, guides on paperwork reduction and use of social media, as well as barriers and solutions to Web 2.0 and social media applications in government. Also included is a list of terms and a series of links to additional resources, many of which address possible security concerns uncovered by Ovum's survey.