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Digital government: 21st century road-map for success

Shahida Sweeney | Feb. 25, 2015
Top global trends to watch for public sector success.

Building global connections

An OECD global study into digital and social media warns that governments are lagging behind. Track the latest trends to improve your digital services and social media blueprint

You can gain fresh insights from the Social Media Use by Government report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD). This comprehensive study examines trends in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, North America, parts of the Middle East and South America.

So, how do you lay the foundations for digital government? Here are the top 7 trends as outlined in the OECD report, offering a snapshot of challenges and opportunities.

Trend 1: Why social outreach matters
Policy planners agree that social media is essential for citizen engagement. However, this outreach is patchy and overshadowed by politicians that hold sway in the digital space.

Despite the mantra of social engagement, the public sector is still looking for the "right recipe" to engage with citizens, create open government and deliver services at the grassroots.

This is reflected by overall uncertainty involving social media channels. "Few national governments in OECD countries have a dedicated strategy or overarching plan for institutional use of social media," says the report.

In Australia, election themes and candidates represented half of the top 10 most discussed topics on Facebook in 2013. Last year, there was less focus on political and civic issues.

One Australian cross-agency collaboration platform GovDex was launched in 2006 and reached around 20, 000 users in 2011. Civil servants now use the GovDex platform to establish communities of interest, including using social media through the "Cross Agency Social Media Forum."

Trend 2: How to capture mindshare
Among the global trends, Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular social media platforms. In 2014 Facebook had over one billion active users worldwide. This represented around 15 per cent of the world's population.

Twitter's more than 270 million active users share more than half a billion tweets each day. Since 2006, the US Library of Congress has been mining this vast reserve of data to support research, and will do so into the future.

Trend 3: Lessons from politicians
Notably, for government, most consider social media as an add-on to public communications. Few are genuinely leveraging social media for more advanced use. These include involving citizens in public policy or transforming and re-designing public service delivery.

Taking the cue from politicians, these were the first groups to leverage Twitter, Facebook and blogs to rally support. "Government institutions are slowly catching up and increasingly experiment with social media."

Some leaders are successful, as illustrated by the popularity of US president, Barack Obama (@BarackObama) or the President of Ecuador (@MashiRafael). Both interact with Twitter followers that correspond to more than 10 per cent of the domestic population.


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