Thanks to Steven Clift at e-democracy.org for being there to enable Karen Purser from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) to post the link to their new report on “Using Social Media in Local Government: 2011 Survey Report” (PDF, 1.16 Mb, 34 pages) published 27th June 2012. The report, as its title infers, is the product of a survey of Australian local government and the conclusions are quite clear that there can be benefits to the use of social media, particularly in the event of an emergency. However, it is acknowledged that there are a number of concerns surrounding its use – it being resource intensive, possibilities of issues around record keeping, other legal concerns and a general lack of understanding of the field. The author suggests that these might be overcome by some sector-wide training and documentation.
I sympathise with both sides on this. There are a range of opportunities for using social media well – and I emphasise the ‘well’ – from dealing with all types of civil emergencies, to broadcasting important information, but I suspect Australian public sector staff are under the same pressures as those in the UK where due to redundancy and target-focused changes they have little time to learn the new skills or confidently apply them. The solution is then down to their political leaders to create the space for staff to experiment with and use new media and technologies or see the electorate pull the rug from under their feet as they are used to their detriment.
Whilst a revolution may not be Tweeted, mass (or even small) movements will and should make use of every opportunity to grab back some power from politicians and bureaucrats who hide behind words like ‘open’ or ‘transparency’ whilst failing to be either.