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The everyday work of government and public service management will never be the same in the era of social media
From flash mobs to Twitter town halls, social media is changing how citizens communicate, interact and mobilize—reinventing the everyday work of government and public service management. The era of the digital citizen has begun. And there is no turning back.
Digital citizens will continue to impact politics and government at watershed moments. However, digital citizens will also have an equal—if not greater—impact on the everyday work of government and the delivery of public services. This story may not make the political blogs, the nightly news, or the history books, but the digital citizen will forever change daily government operations.
In fact, the Accenture Digital Citizen Pulse Survey of citizens in seven countries reveals that the majority would use digital services offered by government, especially for routine transactions. Moreover, 51 percent of respondents believe that the ability to interact digitally with government would encourage them to be more engaged with government.
Following world news today, it is hard to ignore the impact of social media as a springboard for citizen-powered change. Not only are people getting their news from social media, but social media is the news.
Consider the Arab Spring. From Egypt to Libya, North African and Middle Eastern governments fell. In large part, social media tools ignited and channeled these widespread movements for change.
This e-revolution transcended class, gender, political and national boundaries as it spread. Much of the reporting around these events focused on social media—and even looked to social media for on-the-ground perspectives, instantaneously translating local human stories into international news.
The legacy of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement offers an important lesson for governments. Social media and Web 2.0 technologies turn everyday citizens into digital citizens. With convenient, accessible technology tools, digital citizens have instantaneous channels to speak, connect and act.
What’s different—and compelling—about digital citizens is how they can initiate and dictate the dynamics of the citizen-to-government relationship like never before. This is because digital citizens can assert expectations of government and create a groundswell of support so powerful that the need for a response is clear.
The central question for government then becomes: How must government change to better relate to digital citizens? There are already key lessons to consider:
Social media is unlikely to fully substitute for activity in the physical world—at least for now. And only time will tell what the true longevity of this channel is and how its use will transform over time.
What is clear is that when delivering public service solutions and services, governments must consider the right channels to use to interact with and conduct business with citizens. Access issues, cultural norms and government resources will all play a part in this progression.
In addition to developing digital channels, in-person and phone channels will still be of importance. When asked their preferred future channels for interacting with the government, 60 percent of survey respondents still would prefer to speak to someone in person or over the phone to resolve an issue. Yet governments must understand that with a laptop and an Internet connection, an everyday citizen is a digital citizen. And the world is at his or her fingertips.
February 8, 2012
The Accenture Digital Citizen Survey - Read the comprehensive global survey findings from: Australia, France, Germany, India, Spain, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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