open source 2.0 | November 27, 2011

David Eaves: How Governments Can Use Social Media

In our increasingly web-based work world, the question of how government employees should use the internet—including social media—is a pressing concern. In a recent blog post, David Eaves, one of the world’s leading open government advocates, reviews Canada’s new guidelines for web use by its public servants. What he found is that the country is still well behind where governments should be, and need to be, in order to stay competitive and transparent.

One section listed "11 variables that need to be managed" for any social media messaging representing a government body or department. In other words, Eaves says, that's "11 different manuals you need to have at your desk when using social media for departmental purposes." This kind of bureaucratic restriction is a staple of most internal government processes, but in this case it manages to kill the main benefit of Web 2.0 tools, as it constrains the "spontaneity, rapid response time, and personal voice that makes social media effective." What is the point of using social media if you're unable to exploit its primary power? Eaves concludes that current government efforts to utilize the collaborative web are always a step in the right direction, but there is still a ways to go before government catches up with the rest of the world.

The motivation behind Eaves' quest for technologically empowered government is simple — a nimble, web-savvy government can serve its citizens much more effectively. Not only would less restrictive social media outlets allow better communication with interested citizens, it would also allow for better cross-departmental collaboration. If Wikipedia can revolutionize free and public information and Mozilla can open the internet browser market to true competition, imagine what governments would be able to accomplish if they simply adopted the same mentality. Whether he's writing for The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, or his own blog, David Eaves hopes to transform the government of the future into the government of today.

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innovation | November 24, 2011