In 2010, the Young Foundation published a social media framework for local government with the hope that it would help councils to adopt a more systematic approach to use of social media.
We set out three clear steps within the framework. Initially, local authorities should listen to social media users and conversations about local issues. Secondly, authorities should participate and develop a dialogue with citizens, supporting the development of spaces where citizens can be energised online.
Finally, is the need to transform; to tweak the way services are delivered based on user feedback and ultimately, to remodel some services completely.
It is the third point – transformation – which I focused on at the European Commission’s recent Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels. The session I was invited to participate in centred on social media’s role in reinventing government. For me, governments should be using social media to listen and engage with citizens, but if activity stops here it can only be said that government has modernised, not been reinvented.
Arguably, we are yet to see the killer application that really conveys the power of social technologies to reinvent government, although we are getting closer.
One of the most interesting examples I have seen was presented at the Digital Assembly by the Catalan government’s Department of Health.
They are planning a systematic transformation that will enable patients to access data about their health status online, helping to empower them to manage their own conditions. Citizens will have access to their ‘personal health folder’ containing information such as reports, imagery and test results.
Eventually, this will be a platform from which citizens will be able to support each other to manage their conditions and engage with professionals, and developers will be able to create open source applications that will build upon the infrastructure created by the government and bring new functionality to citizens’ fingertips.
The Catalan government’s vision is impressive and their application seems well thought out. By 2015 they hope that all of Catalan’s citizens will be managing their health online and I look forward to seeing the impact.
Mandeep Hothi, programme leader, the Young Foundation