Blinkered public-sector thinking that blames sites such as Facebook for office time-wasting is stunting the take-up of Web 2.0 in government, according to an association for IT professionals.
"Laggards" in local government are doggedly resisting user-generated content, blogging, mashups and social networking on council websites, according to a report, Web 2.0: What it is and why it matters from public-sector IT body Socitm.
The report warns chief information officers, communications managers and councillors to allow the public to shape their communities through forums and to engage with community websites and blogs or risk being branded "Luddite".
More than 80 percent of the public-sector organisations surveyed strongly disagreed that the public should be able to "customise the presentation of our website for their own use", with more than 70 percent opposing podcasts on their site and about half against offering email or text-message alerts linked to site updates.
Almost 80 percent said concerns about time-wasting were preventing greater use of social networking and wider Web 2.0 adoption, with less than half letting staff use social-networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo and only just over half allowing employees to use business social-networking site LinkedIn.
The report states: "With one or two exceptions… those who are laggards find it very difficult to shake off that mantle. More importantly, the defensive approach amongst teams, and a culture of maintaining the status quo that seems to go with it, is difficult to shift."
"The only choice is whether to be in the vanguard, pursuing an exciting path of controlled experiment and learning, or to be dragged along as a reluctant follower with a Luddite reputation in the eyes of your community," the report adds.
A spokeswoman for Socitm said: "Web 2.0 is not very well developed at the moment. There is a school of thought among some managers that social networking is nothing to do with work, which ignores the professional benefits such as networking with colleagues or sharing information."
The spokeswoman pointed to the success of the London Borough of Redbridge, which hosts the mayor's blog on its website and recently consulted voters online over which services should be boosted and which should be cut.
Councils should also look at partnering with existing community sites, the spokeswoman said, pointing to the success of parenting support website Netmums, which has allowed a small group of mothers to reach an audience of thousands.