HOUSE Resolution 184 is proof of the widespread use of social networks on the Internet that a legislative act may be required to regulate their use in government offices. The resolution, filed by Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo, is the subject of discussions and an online petition, with most of the comments and votes going for the measure.

The proposed ban is worth supporting but there are issues that have to be addressed for the more responsible use of Internet resources by the government.

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Any such regulation should cover both officials and employees, inside and outside government walls. With the assignment of laptops and wireless Internet connection subscriptions to officials and employees, it might not be enough for the rules to apply only within government offices. The policy should extend to online decorum and the extent of public disclosure allowed.

How much about the work can a government official or employee disclose in their Facebook or Twitter accounts? There have been instances of controversy or conflict when an employee wrote bad things about the boss on Facebook. This happened in the private sector; this can happen or may have already happened in the public sector.

The resolution submitted to the House of Representatives wants government offices to regulate the use of the Internet as employees are accessing Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites during office hours and at the people’s expense.

Rep. Quimbo estimated that P103 million of the people’s money is wasted per month on electricity alone if all 900,000 government employees used computers for two hours on unauthorized social networking every day.

The “unabated and unregulated use” of the Internet in government offices adversely affects productivity and quality of service, he said. In addition, the increase in computer use beyond office hours resulted in bigger power bills of government offices.

Office efficiency and costs are concerns to justify the regulation of Internet use by government. But, beyond the waste of time and electricity, there is need for a comprehensive policy on how Internet resources can work for government.

Social networks are accessed not only from the office but also from the home or anywhere where there is connectivity. With wireless Internet connections becoming more available and affordable, access can be from anywhere and at any time.

Those in government, like millions throughout the world, own Facebook accounts. In their wall status or in comments, they are free to express their stand on issues or write about office politics.

What policy should government adopt in terms of public disclosure? What can officials and employees say in public and on social networks?

To think that regulating Internet use in government is only about electricity bills and workers being distracted is to fail to see the big picture.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)