I don’t know about you, but I spend a good proportion of my working day online (and that’s before I indulge in my after-hours vintage clothes buying habit). I find t’Interweb invaluable for checking details of people, companies and places, reading news, downloading the latest legislation, converting currencies and much more. And yet I am fairly frequently told by firms that they do not allow their staff access to the Internet.
I appreciate that these firms do not want their workers spending hours browsing social networking sites (which used to be known as pubs but have now gone virtual) or – worse – publishing sensitive work-related information on them. (E.g. “Tedious day at work at ABC Bank today – had to escort the payroll on its usual route through town as the security man is off sick – we’ll be doing it again tomorrow, same time, same place – they don’t even give us a gun – big yawn!”) But mitigating this risk by denying all Internet access is like ensuring that no-one wastes work time reading the newspaper by employing only illiterate people.
I would go so far as to say that nowadays the Internet is an essential tool in the regulated sector. How can an account manager verify that his new prospect in the dairy industry really is a big cheese if he can’t check him out online? How can he judge whether Indonesia is still a corruption risk if he can’t search for recent headlines? Surely the answer to any lingering concerns about misuse of the Internet is training and awareness rather than prohibition. After all, look what the original Prohibition did for organised crime.