Government Technology

International Study Urges Organizations to Adapt to Web 2.0 "Phenomenon"



June 25, 2007 By

Internet usage that involves online collaboration, networking between individual users, and user-created content - known as Web 2.0 -- is growing rapidly and is changing the way companies and organizations around the world should operate, a new Booz Allen Hamilton study has found. Consumers no longer visit the Internet to passively take in content; rather, they are actively creating content themselves.

"In this new era of interactivity, corporations must be aware of what is taking place on the Internet and in social media spaces like MySpace, Wikipedia, and Second Life. They also must decide how to participate in this new world. They must develop a strategy to address the threats posed by Web 2.0 and seize the opportunities it offers. This is equally true for corporations operating in the Middle East, where Web 2.0 sites have a dedicated following," said Jad Hajj, an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, a global management consulting firm with offices throughout the MENA region.

He added that companies also may need to change their business models to better fit the new online environment. "Those that ignore the growing trend of Web 2.0 usage do so at their own peril," he warned.

To understand the full scale of Web 2.0 activity and learn how it might affect consumer behavior, Booz Allen conducted a first-of-its-kind study to investigate trends in Web 2.0 usage, including social behavior and networking, usage of communication and Internet services, and customer expenditure.

As part of the study, 4,570 individuals in the Middle East, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and the United States were surveyed between August 2006 and January 2007. The Middle Eastern countries surveyed included Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

What is Web 2.0?
The term "Web 2.0" describes online activities, sites, and applications that allow individuals to interact in online communities, directly exchange information with one another, and create their own content online. It involves technologies such as blogging, Wikis (i.e., websites such as Wikipedia that allow visitors to add, remove, edit, and change content, typically without the need for registration), social networking sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Classmates.com, virtual meeting places such as Second Life or FunkySexyCool, media sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, podcasting and vidcasting.

Web 2.0 also describes the new ways in which people use the Web, such as writing a blog rather than creating a static personal site; participating in social networking sites rather than sending emails to isolated colleagues; or accessing voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) rather than using landline phone services. In general, Web 2.0 sites are distinguished by the wide-scale harnessing of collective intelligence - such as that which goes into creating Wikipedia, the ubiquitous online encyclopedia - and the enlisting of virtual users as content co-developers.

The scale of Web 2.0 activity is astonishing. For example, MySpace, a social networking site boasts 120 million users and a half-million new users added per week. YouTube, a site that hosts user-generated videos, has 100 million video clips downloaded per day and 65,000 video clips uploaded. Flickr, an online photo management and sharing application, has 7 million page views per day.

"The survey enabled Booz Allen to identify some major social and behavioral trends related to Web 2.0 usage - and it showed unequivocally that Web 2.0 usage is a growing phenomenon that has important effects on consumer behavior," said Karim Sabbagh, partner and vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton.

Key Findings
Some of the key findings from this study, particularly as they relate to consumers in the Middle East, are below.

Web 2.0 Is a Worldwide Phenomenon
In terms of sheer numbers, Web 2.0 usage is indeed revealing itself to be a mass phenomenon. Worldwide, 50 percent of individuals who use the Internet report that they use social media sites such as MySpace, Friendster, and Hi5-resulting in more


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