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Governments and Social Media

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Last week I participated in the DEXA 2008 Conference that took place in the beautiful city of Turin (I recommend it). Next to my track (EC-Web) I followed many of the paper sessions and panels of the E-Government track that I found especially interesting. The reason is that like the corporate world the European public sector begins to explore the possibilities of the Social Media as a new and very promising communication channel with the citizens.
There are already several such projects internationally. I could mention some examples like the New Zeeland Ministry of transport: Road safety forum or the New Zeeland State Services Commission ParticipationNZ wiki , the Government of Canada with the BarCamp a forum for Government employees to get together and talk about what they're doing with social media and new technologies and many other. We must also not forget the impact of the online campaign of Barack Obama in the primaries: using a combination of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 techniques Sen. Obama managed to spread his message very quickly and effectively and ensured large amounts of campaign money from small donations of online fans.
Following the conference proceedings I was pleased to find out that many initiatives are taking place at the moment in Europe with the support of the EU / European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate – General that also gives the good example with the Social Media portal. In the EU there is already a lot of experience with e-petitions and a number of projects under way in several countries.
This form of Government Marketing is certainly interesting and I see here several parallels with the way corporations are using the web 2.0 domain as marketing tool. Whether the initiatives will be successful in closing the chasm between the citizens and politicians is still too early to tell. The positive thing is that citizens are offered now the possibility to participate actively in pan-European or national forums and express their opinion and ideas. Since the (online) citizen is per definition willing to contribute to anything that has to do with online community and participation the success of these experiments will depend on the listening side. Let’s wait and see.
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