Too much data is bad for public servants: survey

Too much data is bad for public servants: survey

February 26, 2009: Government workers are being overwhelmed by a mass of daily data, according to a new survey of the US public sector conducted jointly by Xerox and Harris Interactive.

Findings indicated that 58 percent of surveyed US government and education workers said they spend nearly half of their average workday filing, deleting or sorting paper or digital information. According to Basex, a knowledge economy research firm, this amounts to at least $US31 billion spent managing information each year by local, state and federal governments.

"Government agencies are being asked to maintain the same level of service to constituents while staring at severely slashed budgets," said Jonathan Spira, chief analyst of Basex. "Tackling the information overload problem is a good place to start recapturing some of those costs."

Other responses from the survey suggest taking steps to ease information overload will help speed up work processes, reduce employee stress and ultimately save time and money for government and education agencies.

Of the workers surveyed:* 57 percent say not finding the right information for their jobs is more frustrating than being stuck in a traffic jam* 38 percent said they have had to redo reports or other work* 24 percent said they have used the wrong information* 23 percent missed deadlines as a result of inefficient management* 37 percent strongly to somewhat agree that their organizations are drowning in paper* 50 percent strongly to somewhat agree that their organization's business processes are paper-based* 45 percent felt increased stress and anxiety about their work

"Information overload is creating huge challenges for knowledge workers in both the public and private sectors," said Greg Jones, senior vice president of Public Service Operations, Xerox Corporation.

"With the current economic pressures, it is critical for businesses to address the gaps in their work processes and implement smarter strategies that deliver results."

The survey, which polled government and education workers across the US, revealed that workers see paper as a facilitator of information overload and are looking to technology to help manage it. When considering a technology investment to bring them into the digital age, almost half (42 percent) ranked improved efficiency as the number one priority for doing so.

For those surveyed that have started the digital migration, 63 percent somewhat to strongly disagree that their organization is completely digital, leaving room for improvement down the line.

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