Internet misuse costs near $1b

INTERNET browsing not related to work could be costing organisations up to $1 billion a year in lost productivity alone, according to a new study by Perth-based information technology company Living-stone Group Limited.

The report was based on data gleaned through the installation of WebSpy, a software product designed to provide information on Internet browsing patterns.

Livingstone’s managing director Jack Andrys said the company had conducted a number of alarming case studies in companies where the WebSpy product was installed.

“In one organisation, which employed 180 people, we found that it was losing up to one man week per month in Internet misuse,” Mr Andrys said.

“A large proportion – generally 70 per cent to 80 per cent – of Internet misuse relates to pornographic sites, although there are other areas which are quite prominent, including job search sites, entertainment sites and computer game sites.”

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures estimated the total number of Internet users in Australia at 5.5 million in May.

“Australia is now in the top five countries with the most Internet users per capita and approximately half of those access the Internet from work,” he said.

“Our research and case studies have shown that the biggest expense to business of Internet misuse is loss of productivity – either through loss of revenue or increased business expense.

“Assume that, in an organisation of 100 employees, each employee uses the Internet for non-business purposes for one hour each day. If each employee is on an hourly wage of $20, this organisation would lose $500,000 every year.”

Other potential costs of Internet misuse by employees include increased bandwidth consumption within an organisation, potential legal repercussions and possible threats to the security of a company’s computer network.

Mr Andrys said the increased consumption of bandwidth by even one or two individuals within an organisation represented an added cost for every megabyte of bandwidth that was drawn down.

“It can also slow down a company’s entire computer system, forcing it to pay for an expensive upgrade,” he said.

Overseas studies have confirmed Internet misuse is a global problem costing businesses and taxpayers billions every year.

A recent study by UK-based Webman Technology Ltd estimated the problem was costing UK businesses and taxpayers as much as UK£92 million each day.

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