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Life's necessities: air, water, food, shelter - and the Internet

04 January 2012

Cisco's most recent Connected World Technology Report revealed that one in three college students and working professionals aged 30 years and younger considers the Internet to be as important as fundamental human resources like air, water, food and shelter. More than half of the study's respondents say they could not live without the Internet and cite it as an "integral part of their lives" – in some cases even placing it ahead of cars, dating, and partying! And two out of five respondents said they would accept a lower-paid job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paid job with less flexibility.

Extreme? Faddish? Not really. These findings provide an insight into the mindset, expectations and behaviour of the world's next generation of workers and how they are likely to influence everything from business communications and mobile lifestyles to hiring staff, corporate security and competitiveness. And this does present companies with a bit of a challenge - particularly those that may be reluctant to embrace the concept of a mobile, social networking-aware workforce. Why pay for office space and IT when at least a proportion of your staff are able to work on the move, at home or in some other public setting using their own devices - security issues notwithstanding?

In a survey conducted by ITWeb and Deloitte late last year, some seventy percent of respondents said they used social media in the business environment - up from 55 percent in 2010. And companies in emerging markets are surging ahead in social media use, according to a recent global KPMG survey, which saw businesses in the UK, Germany and Canada lagging behind their emerging market peers in terms of social media adoption. China, India and Brazil are, on average, 20 to 30 percentage points more likely to use social media than their counterparts in developed countries, according to KPMG's report.

Despite the slower uptake in the developed world, social media is rapidly moving up the boardroom agenda in organisations around the world. The survey found that more than 70 percent of companies globally are now active on social networks and see social media as a viable and effective business tool.

KPMG’s head of technology Europe, Tudor Aw says emerging markets are quickly finding that social networks offer a relatively low-cost opportunity to leapfrog the competition in developed markets. In some cases, he says, inefficient, unreliable or monitored email systems are forsaken in preference for faster and unfiltered, interactive social network channels. In others, a lack of alternatives may be driving businesses to adopt social networks within the enterprise.

Mr Aw believes the rapid adoption of social media in emerging economies may also be attributed to a lower dependence on ‘legacy systems’ than in more established markets, which tend to bind organisations to their long-established channel strategies, as well as the rapidly declining cost of internet access and devices in the developing world.

Some 80 percent of respondents globally said that the use of social media tends to deliver significant returns to the business that outweigh the risks associated with social media use. The most quoted benefits include a wider knowledge pool, an increased public profile, increased job satisfaction and the opportunity to cultivate relationships.

KMPG's report also found that organisations that restrict access to social networks may be fighting a losing battle. One-third of employees at organisations with blocked access were not only using social media at the office, they were ‘jail breaking’ their work devices to satiate their social networking needs. Company bosses would be naïve in thinking that banned access to social networks eliminates employee use. This survey, at least, shows that by restricting or blocking access, many employees tend to move their activity to their own personal devices, which are often less secure and completely unmonitored.

KPMG’s study - Going social: how businesses are making the most of social media - is based on a survey of 1,850 managers and 2,016 employees from ten countries. It can be accessed here.

Les Hunt


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