Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tracking the top election topics in social media via BuzzElections

BuzzNumbers, an Australian social media monitoring service, has launched the free BuzzElection service monitoring election mentions online.

BuzzElection includes a tool tracking the online discussion of election issues by the level of interest, state by state analysis and an analysis of the most influential tweeters in the election debate.

This type of tool allows the public to better understand the broader views and trends during an election, without relying on potentially biased media reports.

This type of online monitoring approach is highly adaptable and could be used, for example, for tracking politician behaviours and attitudes online separate to media coverage.

Below is a chart based on data to 29/7/2010 giving a view of the top election issues discussed online via Twitter.

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Australian Government's CIO urges public servants to become “Gov 2.0 activists”

According to a report in FutureGov, Australia’s GCIO talks tough at FutureGov Forum, Ann Steward has urged public servants to actively embrace Government 2.0 in their agencies.

The article stated that,

Steward said that although a lot of good work was being done, agencies needed to identify the internal barriers to embracing Gov 2.0, and develop an “action agenda” not only within their own agencies, but for collaboration with other agencies on common service areas - and the Australian public.

“How many of you are working collaboratively in externally hosted environments?” Steward asked delegates at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, prompting a show of hands. “A few, but not many,” she noted. “We need more activists to lead the way.”

Are you a Gov 2.0 activist?

If not - what is holding you back?

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Google launches Student Voice mock Australian election for high school students

Google has launched the Student Voice initiative, whereby 15-17 year old Australian students will be able to vote online in a mock election reflecting the current Federal election.

The goal is to help these students learn more about elections and also provide a perspective on how Australia's future voters (who will be eligible to vote in the following Federal election) may vote.

The launch has been supported by videos by Julia Gillard and Bob Brown.

I applaud Google for launching and managing this initiative, however it distresses me that no Australian organisation has tried to make something like this a reality. It is a shame that we are relying on a foreign-owned company to broaden Australian democracy, while Australian companies, institutions and other organisations sit on the sidelines and do nothing to support democracy in this country.

Also interesting is that this approach involves online voting. Today's high school students are already likely to expect to be able to vote online in real elections and the Student Voice initiative could further reinforce this expectation.

Perhaps, over time, this type of initiative will be a trigger that encourages Australian governments to support online voting (with appropriate security in place).

Certainly this initiative could help Google position itself as a potential provider of online voting facilities in the future. I would also expect to see them rolling out similar Student Voices in other jurisdictions over time, after using Australia as a guinea pig.

Student Voice launch video

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Using Gov 2.0 techniques to save money across government

Around the world governments are tightening their belts. After the recent global financial crisis many countries' governments have borrowed heavily from financial markets and released these funds as stimulus packages - placing them in deficit.

Australia is no different, although we have very successfully kept our deficit to a smaller percentage of GDP than most other western nations.

For government agencies, long used to efficiency dividends and a philosophy of doing more with less, it is important to constantly 'health check' their budget decisions to ensure that public money isn't wasted and is most effectively spent.

The US, UK, Canada and other governments have begun more intensively involving citizens and public servants in the process of identifying waste and potential efficiencies - a process which has produced some large results in a short time in some jurisdictions.

How are they doing this?

By employing Gov 2.0 techniques, providing access to budget and revenue data online in machine-readable formats and by engaging their staff and the community via social media tools.

Here's a few examples.

UK Spending Challenge
The UK recently launched a public 'Spending Challenge' asking UK citizens to contribute their ideas for reducing their national deficit.

Managed through a website and a Facebook group, the Challenge has attracted more than 31,000 ideas so far, with the government aiming to include the best in their October 2010 budget review.

The US is holding their second annual SAVE award which allow public servants to submit and vote on ideas for cost savings which can be applied within government departments.

Last year SAVE attracted 38,000 ideas and President Obama says (in the video below) that many are being integrated into agency budgets. The top four entries were voted on online by American citizens and the winner got to meet the President and received national acknowledgement.

For the 2010 SAVE award, so far there have been over 17,000 ideas submitted and 153,000 votes.

Canadian public sector data used to expose a $3.2 billion tax fraud
David Eaves has written a fabulous case study on how the release of public data in Canada uncovered systemic tax fraud within the charity sector and helped legitimate charities and the government close down these operations.

It is a very powerful case for making public data available to allow people outside governments to apply their expertise to assist governments.

How many of these techniques could be applied in Australia?

I'd argue that all of them have merit and could be applied in appropriate ways by our Federal, State and Local governments - potentially on an ongoing basis.

None of the examples above involved enormous government expense and, where the processes have been concluded (for the 2009 SAVE awards and in the Canadian example), there have been significant measurable returns on investment.

In other words, they've saved the community money in net terms - with the cost of running the different initiatives a tiny fraction of the savings to the public purse.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Catching up in London...

I'm off to London for a few weeks on Tuesday and will be catching up and speaking with some Gov 2.0 people there to find out what's happening in the UK.

if you have any suggestions on contacts I should catch up with, please drop me a Tweet or email.

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Social media and the federal election

While the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the major political parties are "Parties miss the mark in Twittersphere", the current Federal election is likely to see social media used in more diverse and effective ways than ever before in Australia.

Why and how?

Here's some samples.


  • Australians aged 18+ in 2009: 16,812,886 (ABS)
  • Australians aged 18+ who use the internet: 14,122,824 (ABS/Nielsen)
  • Australians enrolled to vote: 13,869,021 (Australian Electoral Commission via ABC Campaign Pulse)
  • Australians using Facebook: 9,300,240 (Facebook via ABC Campaign Pulse)
  • Australians using MySpace: 1,400,000 (Nielsen via SMH)
  • Australians using Twitter: 1,150,000 (Nielsen via ABC Campaign Pulse)
  • Australian internet users spent 17.6 hours per week using the internet, but only 13.4 hours watching TV, 9.3 hours listening to radio and 3.4 hours reading newspapers. (Nielsen)
  • Almost 50% of Australian internet users watch TV and use the internet at the same time. (Nielsen)

And here's a few of the sites supporting Australians through the election:
  • Election Leaflets
    Photograph and map electoral leaflets distributed across Australia
  • Twit worm
    An online worm using Twitter to measure sentiment, used in the leaders debate
  • Twitter trends
    A custom version of Trendsmap created by the ABC for the election to track mentions of electoral issues
  • Twitter #ausvotes
    The primary Twitter hashtag being used to discuss the election
  • Australia 2
    Site for people to share and vote for their top priorities for Australia

If you know of other websites and social media tools created for the election, please let me know.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

View 100 Australian Governments' twitter feeds in one page

It's all well and good to say there's over 200 Twitter feeds from Australian federal, state and local governments - but to get a picture of the level of activity, and see what they're saying, look at eGovAU's Twitter feed here (note that it is a free service and occasionally down for maintenance).

This page displays 100 of the accounts based on those with most recent tweets, a useful way to view the most current tweets.

You can also follow the Australian-gov tweets list to view them.

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Engaging with and trusting citizens to participate in the democratic process leads to great rewards for the state

The title of this post reflects the key statement that stood out for me in the blog's post Economic benefits of data release

This article puts some solid numbers behind the value of open data initiatives in government, from the US's Apps for Democracy mash-up competition (50 entries in 30 days, valued at $2.5m for a $50,000 prize outlay) to Canada's exposure of a $3.2 billion tax evasion fraud when public financial data was released in machine-readable form.

We've already had several examples of open government initiatives in Australia. Both the ABS and Geosciences Australia release significant amounts of data under Creative Commons licenses, and a number of state agencies do the same. We've also had three mash-up competitions, the first by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce last year, the others through the NSW and Victorian governments.

I've not yet seen any modeling of the value of these Australian public data releases, which is a shame as I'm sure they would demonstrate value for money, however the international experience is quite clear,

Actively engaging citizens and empowering them through machine-readable data adds value to government processes and initiatives.

Now how do we share that message clearly with senior decision-makers?

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Contribute to the draft Unofficial Australian Government Social Media Handbook

Lisa Howdin, who now works with me, has been compiling a set of guidelines and information around how to develop, write, manage and moderate social media tools in Government in the form of a wiki.

She's looking for contributions from people across Australian government who are working in this area and have learnings they can add.

If you've had experience operating a government social media channel, please consider sharing your ideas in this wiki so all of your peers across government can benefit.

If you're new to the area, the Handbook, whilst still in development, already has lots of useful information that might be useful to you.

Visit the Unofficial Australian Government Social Media Handbook at:

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blizzardgate - the perils of taking away user choice in online engagement

Vanessa Paech has written a post on a topic I was considering writing about recently - online identity and what can happen when an organisation decides to force users to use their real identity online.

As Vanessa's post is so good, rather than trying to do the topic justice, I shall take the lazy way out and simply commend her post to you, Online community identity and choice: Blizzardgate.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vote for an Aussie in the Top 10 Who are changing the world of Internet and Politics in 2010

PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum have opened voting for the 11th Annual award for the Top 10 Who are changing the world of Internet and Politics in 2010.

I'm proud to have been nominated for a second year in a row, alongside Senator Kate Lundy. A third Australian has joined us in the nominations for 2010, Berge Der Sarkissian, the founder of the Senator Online political party.

To vote for one of the three Aussies, or for another of the fantastic nominees (such as Tim O'Reilly), go to the Top 10 Who are changing the world of Internet and Politics in 2010 page at Politics Online.

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Senior executive learnings about social media

Marketing Daily has published an excellent article on the learnings of top executives about using and engaging via social media.

All of the realisations and strategies mentioned apply equally to the public sector.

You can read it at, Top Execs Dish About Social Media Strategies.

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The legislative challenges of Gov 2.0 - such as enrolling to vote online

Government 2.0 has a number of challenges in Australia and around the world - developing the appropriate public sector culture, getting the right policies and technologies in place and, often overlooked, ensuring that our laws allow for the innovative use of online channels.

The latter challenge is being faced right in the ability for Australians to enrol online to vote.

Due to the Federal election the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been inundated with people wanting to enrol at the last minute. The matter of online enrolment has been raised by GetUp!'s enrolment website which states "Enrol to vote: It should be easy!". Get Up! initially attempted to provide a web-based enrolment system, however this was disallowed by the AEC.

This was also discussed in a Sydney Morning Herald article, Hitch in plan to get voters on a roll a sign of the times.

This is a clear example of how our laws have not kept pace with technology. Australia's 1918 Commonwealth Electoral Act's section 101 (1) states that people must "fill in and sign a claim". The AEC has interpreted this as meaning that a physical signature is required to enrol to vote in Australian elections.

This makes it necessary for Australians enrolling to vote 'online' to print and hand sign their forms, either hand-delivering or posting them to an Electoral Office.

In one concession to modern technology, it is possible to scan a signed form and email it to the AEC - however a photograph of the form (which is for all intents and purposes a scan) emailed to the AEC is not acceptable.

There are likely to be many other areas where our laws are not designed for a digital society - with other clear examples being our copyright and defamation laws which are struggling to cope in a world where digital copies are cheap and fast to make and private comments are publicly visible online.

Based on these legal issues, beyond the work to adjust public sector culture or simplify online engagement, one of the real tests of many governments' commitment to Gov 2.0 will be in how they adapt their laws to suit a changing society.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Australian Government makes Open Government Declaration

In one of his final acts before retirement, Minister Lindsay Tanner has released the Open Government Declaration - one of the recommendations of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's Final Report.

Released at the AGIMO blog, the Declaration states that the Australian Government is:

committed to open government based on a culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government held information, and sustained by the innovative use of technology.

Three key principles were outlined,
  • Informing: strengthening citizen’s rights of access to information, establishing a pro-disclosure culture across Australian Government agencies including through online innovation, and making government information more accessible and usable;
  • Engaging: collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery to enhance the processes of government and improve the outcomes sought; and
  • Participating: making government more consultative and participative.

I'm very pleased to see this step, albeit released by a senior cabinet Minister rather than the Prime Minister.

However I am disappointed that Minister Tanner is leaving politics and will not be able to lead the ongoing implementation of the Open Government agenda.

With Minister Faulkner, who spearheaded the recent Freedom of Information reforms, also stepping down from a Ministerial role, there is a great deal of interest in understanding who will be advocating for and leading the Gov 2.0 agenda in the Australian Government.

While Senator Kate Lundy is a leader in the Gov 2.0 space, she does not currently hold a Ministerial position and it is unclear whether she would in a future Labor government.

If the Liberals win the upcoming election it is very unclear who would take the lead on Government 2.0

Significant cultural change is required across the public sector to embed Government 2.0 in standard practice and to carry out many of the other recommended reforms in the Australian Public Service.

Given it is very early days as yet, senior political leadership is required to drive the necessary reforms.

My question is who, after this Federal election, will provide the political leadership and support for these reforms (particularly those related to Gov 2.0)?

Or will they be placed on the backburner ahead of more immediate political issues, leaving the Australian Public Service progressively unable to deliver community services or factual, frank and fearless advice to its government masters?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Gov 2.0 advocate named one of the top 100 most creative people by Fast Company

It is rare to see government officials named in the ranks of the most creative or most innovative people.

However in Fast Company's The 100 most creative people in business 2010, Beth Noveck, the Deputy CTO White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been named as the 35th most creative person.

I've never met Beth, but have exchanged emails, and I would like to congratulate her for being the only public servant represented out of 100 amazingly creative people.

I hope that as Government 2.0 becomes normal practice we see many more public servants represented in these types of lists - not just in the US but also in Australia.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

ALP launches social media community in their website

THe Australian Labor Party has just launched a social media community designed to provide ways for party members and the community to interact and provide ideas to the ALP hierarchy.

Launched by Karl Bitar in a blog post, Australian Labor's New Community Space, the system includes a 'ThinkTank' for discussion and voting on issues and 'LaborConnect' a system to support grassroots networking and community formation.

The Liberals also have integrated social media into their website with My Liberals, which supports the expression and support of ideas.

The Greens don't have a similar social networking space on their site as yet, however I expect that it is only a matter of time.

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Keep an eye on the Gruen sessions

If you're interested in advertising and maybe even watch the Gruen Transfer, don't forget to keep an eye on their web-only content, particularly the Gruen Sessions.

The latest session discusses Tourism Queensland's "Best job in the world" campaign, one of the best examples of how to use social media to generate interest and consumer choice (next to Old Spice).

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What's been the impact of Victoria and NSW's Gov 2.0 Apps competitions?

On 21 June Victoria announced the winners of its App My State competition, with prizes being given out by the Premier. A list of the winners and a video of the presentation is here.

A few days later on 24 June NSW announced the winners of the Apps4NSW competition, with their own video.

Most competitions end when the prizes are awarded. The top entries get some kudos, while everyone else goes home empty-handed, their entries forgotten.

However in an Apps competition, such as NSW and Victoria's events, the award ceremony is only the beginning.

Between these two competitions there's been about 300 Apps and ideas generated that use government data to assist citizens. The cost of developing and capturing them has been around $200,000 in prize money.

Assuming that on average these Apps and ideas could cost $20,000 each for a government to develop, the total value of these competitions has been around $6 million dollars - a direct return of 30x the prize money invested.

These Apps and ideas are now publicly accessible. This means that any other government, organisation or individual can review them and use them to stimulate further innovation, leveraging their value beyond the original competition. Some of the best Apps and ideas may be extended beyond their home states, or replicated elsewhere in the world - generating further public value.

At the same time around 500 state government datasets have been released to the public in a reusable format. This data represents millions of dollars of investment by taxpayers which is now accessible to and usable by them. Now the approach to opening data has been trialed we are likely to see more public data released into the public domain.

On top of the Apps and the data, NSW and Victoria have demonstrated that there is public interest in these types of competition, making it more likely that other jurisdictions will consider holding their own similar events.

Also this event has helped support and demystify the cultural changes required by public services to be more collaborative, transparent and innovative. The value of this to citizens is incalculable.

So what's been the major impact of these competitions?

They have helped wedge open a door to government openness and transparency that, over time, will open wider - allowing more light in, and more value out.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The six villains of Gov 2.0

This post by Steve Radick was brought to my attention by Steve Davies of OzLoop.

I thought it was worth flagging here and noting that these are not simply Gov 2.0 villains, but are the opponents of innovators and change-leaders in every organisation.

The six villains of Gov 2.0.

How many of these villains have you encountered - and what are the superpowers that can be used to defeat them?

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Making Public Sector data happen - just do it

A concern I often hear raised in the public sector is that they can't release public data yet because it may not be 100% perfectly accurate, or it needs to be accessible to 100% of the population, or it needs approvals from all the involved areas first.

The UK has taken a clear step to solving all of these issues in one fell swoop.

It has mandated that all 434 local councils in the country release details of all of their financial transactions over 500 pounds publicly, in machine-readable format and it is OK if they don't get it 100% correct the first time (data can be updated later).

The Guardian's article, Local government data: how to make it really open details how pressure from Downing Street - directly from the UK Prime Minister - is shortly going to result in a flood of public sector data from councils.

This is an excellent approach to opening the floodgates. Once they are open, and data starts streaming out, councils and agencies will work hard to ensure that the data released is as accurate and timely as possible.

Where data isn't completely accurate, as has been the experience of agencies in Australia releasing geospatial datasets, there's a plethora of organisations and individuals happy to point out inaccuracies which can then be corrected - improving the overall data quality and improving government's capability to make good decisions.

So will we see an Open Data Declaration in Australia from our Prime Minister, which mandates that government agencies and councils just get their data out there?

While Australia has a Westminister system, there are major differences between our system and that of the UK government.

Within our Federation, with States and Territories holding many of the powers, this type of cross-government declaration can't simply come from Canberra, it requires the support of the States.

That can make it much harder for Australia to rapidly and holistically move in the same direction (as the UK is doing). In certain regards we are more like the US where a patchwork of states are moving in roughly the same open data direction, at different speeds and with different levels of expertise and resourcing.

Perhaps this video explains the process best.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

100 Ideas to Help Engage your Community Online - the book and the wiki

Bang the Table has released a fantastic little handbook for online community engagement.

Titled 100 Ideas to Help Engage your Community Online the book provides 10 ideas in each of 10 topics.

The book has been released under Creative Commons (BY) - allowing organisations to reuse, share and mash it up for their own needs - provided they attribute the creators.

To help this along, and in recognition that online community engagement is a living topic, I have converted the book into a wiki, allowing anyone to add their own topics and ideas.

I hope this proves useful, and becomes a living resource for online community managers across governments and the private sector.

View the wiki at:

Or download the original book from: 100 Ideas to Help Engage your Community Online

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The most popular eGovAU posts for 2009-10

I've been looking over my posts for the last year and thinking about how many people may have missed some because they didn't notice them for the few days they were on the front page.

So I thought I should highlight some of the most read posts in my blog over the last year. How many had you read?

Where's the payoff? Convincing citizens to engage with government
Governments regularly hold consultations. However what's the payoff for the public? This post explores some of the reasons people engage and how to build online mechanisms that encourage participation.

28 reasons why organisations avoid social media - (try it as bingo)
There's many reasons - good and otherwise - that organisations give for avoiding use of social media. This post provides a guide to 28 of them - designed to be used as 'social media bingo' in your meetings. See if you can address all of them!

Australian government Twitter accounts
One of the most popular posts on my blog isn't a post at all, it's a page listing as many government Twitter accounts from Australia that I can find. Listing around 200 accounts it's a strong reminder that government is already actively engaging online.

Australian Gov 2.0 Taskforce publicly releases final report - and most project reports
The Gov 2.0 Taskforce broke ground internationally in providing recommendations on Government 2.0 to a sitting government. Their final report received accolades globally and the project reports released alongside it have been a treasure trove for aspiring Gov 2.0 professionals.

Youtube offers free branded channels to government departments globally
The news that YouTube was giving away free branded channels to government departments was not widely discussed, however my blog post on the topic has been of ongoing interest to government agencies around the world.

What does 'transparent' mean for government?
This post looks at what transparency really means for Australian governments. It discusses what should and can be transparent and what needs levels of secrecy to run effectively.

Creating a social media policy for your department - here's over 100 examples to draw on
If your agency is engaged via social media you need to consider whether your staff need guidance on when and how to effectively engage to protect both them and you. This post raised awareness of the resources available to develop such guidance.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Recognising the first followers in Gov 2.0

When I started this blog the level of online discussion in Australia around Government 2.0 was almost nil.

I didn't set out to be one of the leaders in the Gov 2.0 space, I simply wanted to have good conversations with my peers, to share expertise and knowledge and thereby improve our collective professional skills.

Now there is significantly greater involvement with hundreds of people getting involved in developing and introducing Gov 2.0 initiatives across government and in the not-for-profit and private sectors.

Mandates, to varying degree, are in place at federal, state and local levels and while not all public servants embrace or understand Government 2.0, almost all are aware of it as something they must consider in their planning and future programs.

Government 2.0 could be seen as a movement, beginning overseas and now embraced in Australia. However how does a movement start?

The below three minute video from Derek Silvers's post, Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy was brought to my attention by Tim Longhurst.

In my view it demonstrates how movements may grow, recognising the vital importance of the first followers - those who are willing to stand alongside a leader and embrace a new movement before it is popular. Those who dare to risk ridicule (or worse) in order to support something that they believe in.

Have you ever dared to be a leader or a first follower? If so this video recognises the risk you took.

And if you're someone who has always hung back until you'd look ridiculous by not joining in - consider being a first follower in the future. You might find it liberating.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Still on the Internet Explorer 6 web browser? Microsoft tells organisations to ditch it

Microsoft has just released a beta version of Internet Explorer 9, however is still having to ask organisations to stop using Internet Explorer 6 (IE6).

Despite lacking the ability to fully view the modern web IE6, released nine years ago, is still used by a number of Australian organisations, including some government agencies.

The Sydney Morning Herald, in the article Microsoft begs users to ditch IE6 quotes Microsoft Australia's chief security officer, Stuart Strathdee as saying “IE6 has a lifecycle. We’re well beyond its expiry date”.

The article also stated that,

Strathdee said corporate users who haven’t yet upgraded to IE8 fearing the loss of customised ERP and CRM systems were probably running outdated versions of those and should look to upgrade them all. He said the company would be happy to help customers do so.

“It’s only a very small number of queries on those systems that would be locked to IE6,” he said.

“For us security and privacy are closely related. We’re really pleading with people to upgrade.”

Is your agency still using IE6?

If so the question becomes, are your senior management aware of the security and reputation risks they are taking by doing so?

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