The next evolution is utilising technology to create an 'anticipatory government' model, that's able to predict the needs of citizens and enhance the efficiency of any policy changes.
3) In terms of technology requirements, does it require plenty of resources (and money)?
It really boils down to the technology used. However, the Singapore government is already planning to launch the OneInBox - a one-stop official and trusted platform - in the second half of 2012 for individuals and businesses to receive electronic correspondences from the government, in place of hardcopy letters.
4) What are the challenges for government CIOs who need to architect social media efforts for safe and secure use?
Today's governments are looking at technology to facilitate conversations with citizens for better governance. The permeability of social media has made it a powerful digital medium, serving as a barometer of public sentiments and a platform to influence opinions.
Social media allows the opportunity for all voices to be heard. However, government CIOs need to consider that it can give rise to catalysing opposition but it is all part of actively engaging citizens in a meaningful two-way dialogue to garner feedback, better evaluate existing policies and quicken decision making process.
Civil servants also need to use social media in a responsible and effective manner, thus a robust and flexible social media engagement policy needs to be put in place that will provide strong guidance.
Apart from implementing effective social media policy, there are increasing trends from the governments globally that are enforcing the identities of individuals with regards to their access and in giving feedback through the e-government social media platforms. This move is to weed out the recalcitrant perpetrators who try to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet when giving callous and unreasonable feedback with the intent of discrediting the government. The positive outcome that can be derived by enforcing the identity of the user would help to encourage genuine feedback on the ground in many of the government outreach programmes.
5) And how challenging is it for IT leaders to define social media for citizen service?
With a variety of social media tools to establish and maintain effective communications with the populace, IT leaders should consider which are the best channels in uncovering what citizens really think. For example, networking site Facebook allows discussion and interaction among followers while micro-blogging site Twitter may exist as a news update tool. With Singapore having the highest smartphone penetration in Southeast Asia, smartphone applications are also another avenue to reach out to citizens.
What is clear - the rise in social media has given rise to multiple channels being utilised at the same time, to stay relevant with the Internet-savvy citizens; but the challenge will be on how to safe-guard confidential information while still maintaining a meaningful two-way dialogue between government and its citizens.
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