Social mediating

March 21, 2010

Whilst the local authority where I reside (City of York) has just published the reults of a survey of residents stating that 17% would find out council information through social media, another report has been issued by NESTA, The Lab and I&DeA promoting their use.

The new report, “Local by Social – How local authorities can use social media to achieve more for less“, is written by Andy Gibson and is a sort of follow-up to another report Social by Social, but this time focused upon local authorities. In reality, from a lot of the examples he provides, it’s actually as much about Web 1.0 as it is about Web 2.0.

Andy proposes the way around the digital exclusion factor of social media is for others to do it for those excluded, an idealistic dream reminiscent of those distant days when many people didn’t have a home telephone and bad news (and sometimes good) was delivered by telegram, and the lucky neighbour or business might prevailed upon in time of emergency for the use of the telephone!

He’s also misled, in these times of increasing austerity, if he thinks councils have the resources to experiment with social media. This maybe so in a lucky few, but many are looking for savings, and luxury items are a target. His argument that better service and savings will be presented is unlikely to be proved, if it was ever viable.

The report also focuses on London and big urgan authorities. On the occasions it does get out to the sticks by describing activities on Lichfield’s web site, he’s describing something that many web masters and mistresses have been doing for some time, which is signposting local services. This is also only information provision, and not really service delivery.

An admirable attempt by someone on the outside, to teach local authorities something they are already attempting to do, against formidable cultural, financial  and political barriers.

NESTA have also been optimistic and contrary in the recent past, when driving their Reboot Britain campaign.