The Cabinet has endorsed the social media policy releasing the grip on officials who are hooked onto social media both for information and leisure.
The policy was endorsed to use social media to disseminate and receive information, a tool for public policy formation and improving public service delivery. These are good reasons. Social media has a lot of potential to be used for governance.
Many governments are way ahead in using e-government strategies and disseminating information through online channels and receiving information from the public. Research has found out that where there are two-way channels, transparency of organizations and government ministries improve.
The government banned social media at the work place in 2011. They did that to prevent civil servants from whiling away office time on Facebook. It did not work. Social media can be accessed not only from government computers. It is in our phones, tablets and now even on watches. It cannot be controlled as it has become a part of our life.
What we can do is use it for good. Even with a policy, some smart ministries or agencies are already making good use of the new media. A good example is the Prime Minister keeping his people informed almost real time, often beating the legacy media at it. Gasa dzongkhag’s Facebook page is a good source for information and photographs for the media whose presence is nil in the remote dzongkhag.
Government websites are boring or never updated and not many visit it even if crucial information is loaded or feedback sought. Put to good use, social media from its popularity has become the main channel both for decision makers and consumers of information.
Success of such a policy would however depend on how much information is shared or updated. Will the civil service be controlled to share information of decisions or issues in their agencies or ministries? The purpose would be defeated if flow of information is controlled – say because the head of the department is on tour and has not signed the information to be shared.
Social media with all its advantages is also notorious. Therefore, content has to be managed filtering personal attacks or baseless accusations overwhelming social media managers or government social media pages. It is blamed for spreading rumours and posting unverified information. This can be avoided if the flow of information is quick. When facts are hidden, fiction takes over.
The success of the policy will depend a lot on the people behind the computer. The policy says civil servants will be limited to using social media only for work related activities. The government will not deploy inspectors. That would be expensive and waste of resources.
Thus the onus is on the users, both government officials and the consumers. If all the good intentions fail, the problem is beyond social media. It is us.