Government 2.0: How government can leverage social networking tools

As social networking Web sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and other social media tools such as Twitter, become more widely adopted in the government sector, software vendors and channel partners will play a significant role in how users interact with and use these systems.

That’s the message of Doug Hadden, vice-president of products at FreeBalance, an Ottawa-based software solution vendor for public financial management. He’s also a spokesperson at the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management (ICGFM), a global organization which brings together governmental entities, organizations and individuals, to promote professional development and the sharing of ideas.

The idea of Government 2.0, said Hadden, is a phenomenon similar to Web 2.0 applications and tools.

“Government 2.0 is primarily about social networking,” Hadden said. “With Government 2.0, it’s more about internal collaboration because these tools make collaboration within the government easier by making information available to users in a rapid and immediate fashion.”

Social media applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace enable government employees to share information with the rest of the world.

“Departments can participate and collaborate in a variety of different ways such as with RSS feeds, or with social media systems that allow users to make connections and get questions answered,” Hadden explained.

Hadden gives the example that government departments can use Web 2.0 tools to make information more easily accessible and machine readable to users can view data and gain insight into it.

“Departments could take things such as financial data and look at it by geography so they can learn how to better improve things like healthcare in certain regions,” Hadden said.

There may be some resistance to social networking tools in the public sector, however. For example, Facebook has been banned in some government departments over concerns it’s a distraction for employees.

”Many government organizations ban external web sites. I’ve heard that CIDA blocks all .com sites except for those explicitly allowed,” said Hadden. “Many government agencies and large companies ban social networking sites like Facebook. These restrictions are slowly being removed though.”

Channel partners can take advantage of the 2.0 culture by leveraging social media tools to design and support complementary applications.

“Today in a 2.0 world, there are many collaboration platforms that enable partners to add value by developing widgets, applications and other functionality over top,” he said. “We’re at the beginning of a significant shift where we, as consumers, enjoy a high level of usability when we interact with Web 2.0”

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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