For many, getting information about government services is akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack.
But recently government departments have been using social media in different ways to bring services and information to citizens. But are they moving fast enough?
[Here is the original post on PCWorld, and reproduced below]
At various times in our lives we have to interact with the civil service. Whether it’s tax time, finding out about local services or even paying parking tickets, what used to be a painful experience is gradually growing to be more comfortable as various levels of government embrace social technologies to connect civil servants with their constituents who are thirsty for information.
At all levels of government, public servants are interacting with citizens using new and innovative technologies. Some of them you’ve no doubt heard of before, such as Facebook and Twitter, but you might not be familiar with others such as wikis and open data.
So how does one connect with the Federal government? The Servicecanada portal is an established means, but there is more to discover. Say, for instance, you want to find out about working in Canada. You can go to the “Working in Canada” Facebook page, where you will find the group’s mission statement, links and other information. You can also become a fan and post to the wall connecting with other users and the civil servants in the department.
For those working inside the federal government, GCPEDIA is the wiki for the employees of the Government of Canada. A wiki is defined (by Wikipedia.org!) as: “… a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser.”
Unfortunately GCPEDIA is only accessible on the Government of Canada network so for those outside, you could try another route for up-to-date information: follow the several government departments on Twitter. For example, Health Canada has an active Twitter account posting brief messages and links about its programs and issues of interest to citizens.
Another way to connect to government departments is the video sharing site YouTube. Even the Canada Revenue Agency has videos posted to YouTube for a contest it ran recently on how the Underground Economy is a bad thing for the country!
Not to be outdone by the feds, at the provincial level, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, has his own YouTube channel where viewers can view and comment on videos of the Premier giving speeches or cutting ribbons at various functions.
Various cities across the country are taking interesting approaches to using social media to keep citizens up-to-date on information at the municipal level. From Twitter accounts for council members to blogs authored by politicians, all sorts of initiatives are available to citizens. Vancouver recently made selected municipal data available in a project called “Open Data” to outside developers so they could create applications (like the location of all water fountains in the city) that city workers likely don’t have time, initiative or funding to do. Rumour has it that Toronto’s soon to follow suit.
The movement towards social media and open data is an important one. Citizens world-wide are looking to their governments to become more transparent. Increasing ways they communicate and making data available are critical steps to this goal and go a long way towards quenching citizens’ thirst for information.