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Can government learn from brands?

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Like marketers, eGovernment agencies seek to
connect with their audiences online to serve
them better and build strong relationships.
From blogs to social networks to Twitter,
governments are testing social media channels to encourage participation. But will tactics that work for consumers succeed with citizens?

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Can government learn from brands?

  1. 1. SPRING 2010 OPEN FORUM CAN GOVERNMENT LEARN FROM BRANDS? Like marketers, eGovernment agencies seek to connect with their audiences online to serve them better and build strong relationships. From blogs to social networks to Twitter, governments are testing social media channels to encourage participation. But will tactics that work for consumers succeed with citizens? Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Nurun - A Quebecor Media Company
  2. 2. CAN GOVERNMENT LEARN FROM BRANDS? Our experts weigh in: ness intelligence – think Web analytics on steroids – to help people who design and deliver social services on govern- Bernard CÔTÉ ment’s behalf. Director, Strategic Consulting Emerging trends for G2C Nurun Quebec City Given the current alignment of the economic (and business, and political) context with extraordinary advances in infor- mation technologies and digital media, forward-thinking government agencies have the ability to map out a new FROM ONLINE BUREAUCRACY TO CYBER-DEMOC- vision for interaction with citizens. The opportunities for in- RACY: A NEW PARADIGM FOR GOVERNMENT novation are tremendous. Consider these: Citizens are changing… and governments, too, are chang- • A collaboration toolbox shared by government employ- ing the ways they operate and communicate with the gov- ees, citizens and communities, including chat, Wikis, erned. Citizens today want services available everywhere: blogs, webcams and other social tools at work, at play, at home; at all times: with no restrictive • Confidential online services for families and individuals, schedules or opening hours; on all devices: work computer, protected by advanced security strategies and tools home computer, smart phone, notebook, interactive TV. • State-of-the-art interoperability between government Not to mention social networks, which for most of us are agencies, online partners and citizens, made possible by the hub of our online activities. service oriented architecture and services delivered from the cloud The Blue Box • Services delivered in Web ecosystems with hybrid wid- gets or mash-ups (in other words a mix of private and So imagine a world in which citizens and governments con- governmental services) multi-channeled to computers, nect, exchange and collaborate, just as easily as we now smart phones, interactive TVs, etc. interact with our friends on social platforms. That world is • Rapid integration of complementary business solutions not science fiction: we’ve actually begun to develop that and frameworks such as customer relationship manage- vision. We call it the Blue Box, in honour of Quebec’s state ment (CRM), enterprise content management (ECM) and colour. business process management (BPM) anchored in the cloud The Blue Box is a concept for the seamless integration of a • An innovative approach to governance, in particular to the governmental ecosystem with the universal digital ecosys- resolution of issues raised by organizational transforma- tem. It includes security, social media and elements of the tion, that takes into account the human factor, change semantic Web (Web 3.0). The Blue Box gives users access management, communications strategy, and so on. to a “hybrid cloud” of services provided by state agencies • The leveraging of skill sets and disciplines that are and partners, tailored to each individual’s needs as a citi- emerging from social media, the semantic Web, cloud zen, a voter, a member of communities or interest groups, technologies and service oriented architectures, business and a beneficiary of government services or subsidies. intelligence, and so on. What is innovative about the Blue Box is the way it incorpo- At Nurun our eGovernment teams are positioned at the rates the social dimension, enabling citizens to willingly and juncture of emerging media and Web solutions; we’re work- actively participate in a truly 21st-century version of de- ing hard to develop this ambitious vision for the future. It mocracy. New as well is the way Web 2.0 tools are used for isn’t a distant future, either. Citizens are quickly adopting on-the-job collaboration among government employees, Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies in their everyday lives. We their partners and the public. believe that they are more than ready to take the leap into cyber-democracy. What’s more, the Blue Box is a cutting-edge dashboard for highly efficient reporting, and it’s a powerful tool for busi- Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Nurun - A Quebecor Media Company
  3. 3. Citizens and activists worldwide are already discuss- ing, debating and defining the major issues of the day on Denis MARTEL every social platform, be it Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Director, Web Strategy Wikipedia, Ning… That’s why it’s essential for government Nurun Quebec City agencies to be present on those same platforms, in order to listen to what citizens have to say and hear their ideas. Governments need to participate in online communities so that they can become more responsive to the public’s needs and ultimately leverage the collective intelligence they gather to improve their services. WILL TACTICS THAT WORK FOR CONSUMERS SUC- CEED WITH CITIZENS? Gone are the days when a government agency’s interac- tive strategy could consist of putting up a website. As they New behaviours adopted by the online population have learn to integrate social networks and media in a multi- turned traditional communications upside-down. Online channel digital strategy, governments are discovering more channels, networks, intelligent devices – they’re all multi- effective ways to communicate, and better ways to build plying at a rapid pace. One consequence of this upheaval: real relationships, in real time, with the governed. organizations that want to reach out to us, today’s digital nomads, need to rethink the way they communicate. As even “traditional” government communications gradu- ally migrate to digital platforms, we foresee an interactive That goes for governments, too. future filled with challenges and extraordinary opportuni- ties. Brands, by and large, have gotten the message. In an open system no longer based on top-down advertising but on dialogue and conversations, it’s just not possible to control what is said about their products and services. Even more than brands, government agencies tend to fear that loss of control. But they need to realize that it’s already gone! Recently a government ministry asked us to work with them to overhaul their “official online portal.” Our client was astounded to discover that an entire section of Wikipedia already presented a detailed account of the ministry’s of- ferings and services. The revelation was a shock – but it was also an effective and salutary wakeup call. We offered to help the ministry regain their leadership position, by becoming the main and most reliable source of information pertaining to their portfolio. Governments need to participate, too How would we accomplish this? To start, we would take cues from interactive communications models. After all, it’s the government’s job to make collective resources available to the public. That means socializing information and pro- moting collaboration. So why not integrate these principles into their digital communications strategy? Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Nurun - A Quebecor Media Company
  4. 4. FORUM HIGHLIGHTS Here are some major points that emerged from our discussion of eGovernment and digital democracy 1 - From vox populi to social media 3 – Governments approach social media with caution - Empowered by social media, the people have taken over the Web. The world has found its voice in the online - Governments show caution in their approach to social social ecosystem inhabited by Facebook, YouTube, Twit- media; many are still taking the measure of the phenom- ter, Wikipedia and the rest. Today 3 out of 5 Canadians enon. Certain obvious risks – such as the diluting effect have at least one social media profile page; among of open discussions on official information, the debates young adults the number is even higher. that degenerate into name-calling, the spread of outright disinformation—all of these give administrations pause. - Collective intelligence opens the way for constructive debate and for the sharing of reliable information, all of - Still, there are many opportunities for government to do which benefit the wider community. Given the uncon- social media the right way. By starting conversations with trolled and uncontrollable nature of digital communica- their constituents, for example (look what that did for tions, they are bound to generate a certain amount of Obama!). “Social” government fosters transparency, the noise and disinformation. Nonetheless, the success swift spread of information, the rise of true cyber-democ- of Wikipedia indicates that we can have confidence in racy. Some administrations are even providing govern- collective wisdom. In any case, citizens did not wait for ment services sourced from the cloud –GoogleApps, for permission before debating public issues on social plat- instance. forms – whether government likes it or not. - Citizens’ concerns about the security and privacy of their - When it comes to privacy and security issues, many re- personal information cannot be overlooked. But eGov- main wary of government’s ability to ensure the safety of ernment strategies must evolve and take advantage of personal information. Security is a hotly debated topic, the interconnections between digital services and digital as evidenced by numerous posts to the Open Forum. communication via social networks. 2 – Governments are not merchants - What governments and businesses have in common is this: both must learn to deal with the uncensored ex- changes that take place on the social Web; both need to live with the fact that people will talk about them, share experiences (good and bad), offer tips and workarounds for problems. Online populations use their “own turf” – social media – to express themselves freely and collec- tively, with comparable results for governments and for brands. - Brands were the first to recognize the impact of social media, which is normal, perhaps, given the competitive nature of business. Governments, on the other hand, did not react with the same sense of urgency, at least not in the years from 2005 to 2008. But in 2010 the time for testing the waters is over. Today people regularly use social platforms to express concerns and opinions on the community and economic issues that directly involve the government. Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Nurun - A Quebecor Media Company
  5. 5. EXPERTS POINT OF VIEW What if government socialized with citizens? The question puts into perspective the revolution taking place in the way public administrations com- municate with the people. At times, in the course of exercising certain civic rights and obligations, government and constituents must communicate in an “official” manner. But more often, civil servants and the people they serve engage in human communications: in other words, an exchange of informa- tion, explanations or advice. Social media offer government many opportunities to get Right now there is no coherence among social media; each closer to constituents. Government needs to grasp those entity strives to increase traffic to its site in order to survive opportunities and leverage social media platforms in their and make a profit. A truly digital government must adopt a communications and service strategies. Businesses and holistic approach that seamlessly integrates both services governments alike should be present and active in the and communications – a model that Nurun has conceptual- social arena, because we the people expect them to take ized with the Blue Box. part. And as for the free-flowing give-and-take that prevails in social media – well, everyone will just have to get used The evaluation phase, we repeat, is over. Now is the time to it. for administrations to step up, take action and make Gov- ernment 2.0 a reality for all citizens It would be unwise for government to neglect social media. Social channels have become a new form of collective might, an amplifier that allows the voice of the people to be heard in the periods between elections. These new platforms have ushered in a new age of cyber-democracy – some might call them the iPad of digital democracy! Still, certain fundamental questions remain to be an- swered. For example: among the main social networks, which one(s) would be suited to: • Launching a debate, sharing opinions, learning what the community thinks? • Ensuring that the collective knowledge of citizens and administrations is preserved and disseminated to the community (citizens and businesses alike)? • Learning about government-related events? • Providing secure online services supported by both official and community-based FAQs? Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Nurun - A Quebecor Media Company