Is Government’s Citizen Engagement Evolving?
The public sector networking site GovLoop released a study this week of how government employees perform citizen engagement. It found that while public sector workers’ hearts may be in the right place, a variety of workplace limitations and existing platform shortfalls keep most government offices from doing citizen engagement effectively.
While 72 percent of its respondents to GovLoop’s survey believed citizen engagement should be a priority in governance, only half said it actually was at their current workplace. About one in four said their agency or office had a budget for it.
Frustratingly, the GovLoop report says very little about how government workers use existing (and free) social media platforms to perform citizen engagement work. Its survey found that only 21 percent of state and local government employees and 28 percent of federal agency workers prefer social media as an engagement tool. It’s not clear whether those low preference figures reflect users’ frustrations with the limitations of current platforms or their limited success in developing effective engagement strategies on them.
Nevertheless, the GovLoop report is worth reading for its survey of what emerging technologies and platforms may yield better citizen engagement results at no cost to agencies. The report cites the crowdsourcing Twitter platform AskThem.io, which automatically forwards a question to the verified Twitter accounts of public officials who sign up with the site once a given question has generated enough online support. GovLoop also suggests governmental employees explore the free online code sharing service GitHub, which hosts crowdsourced data collections, apps, and agency regulations that users can update.
Enterprising advocates may be able to jump into the breech and provide their technical and organizational expertise to aid government offices. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers, for instance, hosts a catalog of state mobile apps and offers advice to state agencies looking to develop or adopt their own.