Note: This post is of my own personal opinion and is not endorsed or supported by any local, state, or federal government agency.
This article on Ars Technica caught my eye. The beginning of the article states:
“Now, in light of tightening budgets, a VP analyst at Gartner says it’s time for government departments to move past previous failed endeavors and wake up and smell the social. Considering the explosive social networking growth revealed by a survey Nielsen just published, now may be a great time to begin transitioning some government operations to social media tools.”
I think many government organizations, including my own (USGS) have already started to move some of the traditional processes or tools, and even generating new communications products, through the use of social media and social networking tools. Many governments have been doing this for a few years now. In fact, I would wager that there’s a lot more internal social tools than there are public government social tools. The obvious reason, of course, is that there’s no privacy issues when dealing with employees since there is no privacy inside your own network as your subject to government rules when you sign on. On the public facing sites, though, there’s a entire world of privacy issues, policies, and regulations that need to be considered and dealt with before implementing social tools.
This article just really caught my eye because it makes me feel as if the public has no idea that Government already is using social media and networking tools…and quite effectively. They just don’t know about it because they’re not on the “inside” of the fence. I don’t mean that to sound like one of those “you have to sit at the cool kids’ table to be popular”-type thing. But because we [government] do have to deal with all the various public privacy policies and issues it makes it hard for us to show the public how much we really do deal with social media on a daily basis within our own organizations. Certainly there are a lot of public government examples to point to but that’s only a small fraction of what is really happening.
Govies get it. We understand the value and the benefits of social media tools. We know how, used effectively, these tools can increase production, encourage inter-disciplinary and inter-program work, and increase employee communications. We get it. We got it. We use it. We just happen to have less flexibility when it comes to privacy issues than the public sector does. And let’s face it…you can’t exactly have a “social” network unless you’re willing to let go of some privacy. That’s the point of being social…to share information…and in many cases your own information.
So the next time you’re talking to a non-govy, or you read a blog post or an article about how Government needs to get on the social train before it leaves the station, let them know we’re already on that train. In fact, we were on the first train…after we built the station that it runs out of.