ictQATAR’s Section Manager on Numbering, Interconnection and Internet Domains, Mohamed Al-Bashir, shares his insight on how government can and are taking advantage of new media to serve their constituents. Visit Mohamed’s blog!
Public service organizations around the world are jumping on the new media and web 2.0 bandwagon— engaging citizens through social networks, blogging, developing ever more sophisticated government interactive websites, investing in “Enterprise 2.0” platforms and even encouraging the public to create mashups and apps using government data. The challenge for public servants is to look past the hype to understand the real benefits of new media and develop action plans to maximize these benefits.
Here are some great examples of how government organizations are effectively taking advantage of new media:
Through internal blogs, wikis, collaborative planning applications, social networking platforms and mashups, organizations can increase productivity by sharing best practices across the enterprise and dramatically reduce the cost of collaboration. Canada’s GCPedia, for example, uses enterprise wikis to connect employees and enable them to share learning. Moreover, by replacing traditional desktop strategies with software-as-a-service models and cloud-based desktop strategies, public service organizations can also reduce the cost of IT and the risks associated with implementing enterprise applications.
Intellipedia is another great example. It is essentially the intelligence community’s version of Wikipedia, allowing analysts and officials across the United States federal government to share information over the Web and plan operations. About 35,000 federal employees contribute to Intellipedia, and there are some 4,800 edits made every day. It’s a good example of how to use collaboration technologies to let experts pool their knowledge, form virtual teams and make quick assessments.
More Accessible Public Services
Web 2.0 enables organizations to provide citizens with information about accessing public services as never before; not only through government sites but also through user-generated mashups and apps, social media and personalized feeds like those provided by the District of Columbia’s Digital Public Square. Web 2.0 could also enable citizens to report problems to and request service from government more easily through social networking sites, widgets on non-government sites and mobile apps. Fixmystreet.co.uk is a h nongovernmental web 2.0 site that enable citizens to report problems to government more easily.
Greater Citizen Participation
Through popular social networking sites and by developing their own web 2.0 e-participation tools, public service organizations can engage citizens in a more productive discourse about what they expect from public services, how public services could be improved and what they as individuals can do to improve their own or their communities’ quality of life. For example, local authorities across the UK are using online budget simulators to engage and educate the public and develop a better understanding of citizens’ public spending priorities. Barnet Council offers a citizen portal with an application designed to help citizens understand the tradeoffs necessary to budget for and administer public services.
Improved Transparency and Accountability
Public service organizations can increase transparency and become more accountable to their constituents by developing platforms, such as the NHS Choices website, that enables citizens to rate and comment on the quality of services. Also, opening up government data banks to the public and developing web-based tools, like recovery.gov and the IT Dashboard in the US, to report on spending and results, are good examples of governments being more transparent and accountable.
When it comes to government, I don’t really expect radical change too fast. Governments are large, complex beasts subject to a number of constraints. In fact, the institutions of democratic governments were deliberately designed to induce stability and prevent radical change. But the good news is that new media is making change easier and in many ways less expensive. Hopefully governments around the world will continue to embrace new media in innovative ways to better serve their constituents!
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