Governments and Social Media

There are always going to be people that are against a  certain government. This means that governments and party members really have to watch what they say or post online in case they say the wrong thing, or say something that allows opposition to twist their words to turn what they said into something bad. These party members already have to be careful with traditional media, so why would they choose the extra stress of social media?

There are many reasons a government should choose to not use social media. The process from writing a post for the internet to it actually being posted is very long – there are many people that must check, edit and ‘okay’ a post before it is allowed to be published.

Also, there are still many households which do not have access to the internet. In the U.S.A., this is 40% of households. Life can be a lot harder for those citizens who aren’t connected if the government decided to go digital. Households that do not have access to the internet are usually low-income, so  if a government posts something that may help  low-income families – such as a free or discounted course – online, then many families or individuals that need the help are not able to access it, for example, when a US Fire Service offered a free house checks, many high risk homes were unable to get the help as they did not have access to the internet, and the low risk homes were able to get the free check.

The government also has to consider the costs of ICT and social media. Though governments can save a lot of money by having all information stored on a system, some governments, especially smaller ones, may find it difficult to make the switch to using more ICT. It may be hard for a government to access the technology – and even if they can access it, the government may not have enough money to pay for the technology. Extra staff may have to be found that can create and update the system, and then they have to be paid for as well. A lot of time also has to go into deciding what the aim of using the technology is, what they want it to do and how it should look. These costs all add up and it can be an expensive and lengthy process.

So why Should a Government use Social Media?

There are also so many reasons for a government to use social media. Having governments posting documents on social media increases transparency. Transparency of a government increases trust between the government and citizens, as citizens can know exactly what the government is up to. It also leads to less corruption as everything the government is involved in can be seen by everyone.

Internet has greatly reduced the costs of many things. Collecting, distributing and accessing government information is a lot cheaper and easier when it all can be accessed from your own home! A parliament research paper found that out of the citizens that participate online, only half participated offline, which is most likely because online participation is so easy.

Online participation is also a lot cheaper, meaning more citizens can be engaged  and involved in government decisions. More citizens are then empowered, as they feel that they have a voice and are valued by the government.

The Public vs. the Private Sector

In both the public and private sector, there are stages of social media adoption – from early adopters to laggards, which is explained in this diagram for anyone who is unfamiliar:

adoptioncurve1

Both sectors also share the process from simple to complex technology. These processes start on average 10 years earlier in the private sector than in the public sector. This is sometimes because before implementing certain technology, which can be time-consuming, the government can wait and analyse how citizens use the technology and what works/doesn’t work for users, so the government knows how they themselves should use it.

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