Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Social Media in Government Agencies

Our CEO and founder, Frank Stasiowski, passed along this article from Federal Computer Week magazine that looks at using social media in government agencies. Here are some excerpts:

• Interviews with government officials, employees, consultants and interested observers suggest that although the true value of Government 2.0 has yet to be measured or even fully imagined, there will be no turning back the clock to a previous era. Much like the emergence of the World Wide Web some 15 years ago, the latest version of online interaction and information sharing promises to insinuate itself into every corner of government.
• As one of the [Open Government Initiative] directive's key principles, “every agency will be directed to publish and engage the public in their open-government plans,” said Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s chief technology officer. Furthermore, agencies must deliver “a structured schedule of how data will be released to the American people in a machine-readable format.”
• For Godwin of USA.gov, social-media technology will likely lead to government employees and the public working together to solve problems. ... That concept could become the norm governmentwide, Godwin said. “I really see it moving in the future from an outreach to solving mission-related problems together,” she said. “I think it is a long journey. I don’t think we are going to get there in 2010.”
• Institutional hurdles must be addressed before those lofty goals are achieved. For example, some agencies still block access to social-media tools. Concerns about security and employee productivity are the two main reasons for such bans. Agency leaders must balance when information must be kept behind firewalls and when it is acceptable to venture into the public domain with tools such as YouTube and Twitter.
• Ignorance and indifference are other major hurdles for social media, Drapeau said. Agencies will need to offer training that shows how the tools can change the way government employees do their jobs, he added.
• “Part of the problem is [that] the people who are thinking about social media the most are the people who are the most interested in it,” he said. “But there are still a lot of people who this affects, and they don’t really know what’s going on."
• One clear sign that the federal government is committed to increasing the use of social media is the work GSA is doing to create a citizen engagement platform. GSA plans to offer best practices, assistance with selecting social-media tools and perhaps government-hosted technology through the program, said Martha Dorris, GSA’s deputy associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services.
• “What we’re trying to do is create a program to help other agencies in conducting dialogues with the public,” Dorris said. “We know the open-government directive is coming out very shortly, and agencies are going to be creating plans on how to engage the public in making policy decisions within their agencies.”


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