Social Media: Facilitating County Progress

jamhurimagazine.com

jamhurimagazine.com

Here is an extract from an Internews article titled Social Media: How County Governments can Benefit by James Ratemo. 

“..gone are the days of one-way communication systems where governments were monopolies of information and only transmitted censored information to citizens. Today citizens have leeway to vent their frustrations on leadership via the social media and a government that cannot listen is doomed to lose touch with the grassroots. The social media even gives Kenyans in the Diaspora a chance to contribute to county governance debates, meaning the leadership is able to curate varied opinion that would enrich its decision-making process.

Already a section of governors have borrowed a leaf from corporates and are quite active on social media. The Nairobi County Governor Facebook page for instance had over 138,000 likes as at November 11 2013 [currently over 148,000]. The governor has used the platform to communicate the work of his office and to arouse debate among his followers.

Dr. Kidero has even gone a notch higher to use the Facebook page to announce all upcoming events of his office and sharing key recordings from past events. This has seen the governor garner more and more followers thus able to track what Nairobi residents or other stakeholders think about the county’s projects and activities. His therefore is an example of how county governments can engage Kenyans on social media.

A quick survey across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks indicate that most counties are yet to establish official presence on the platforms. The county pages littering Facebook are either being run unofficially by individuals and contain no meaningful updates from the counties.

With more and more Kenyans now able to access the Internet via mobile phones, it is easy to stay connected and engage county leaders around the clock. Since it is impossible for county leaders to meet all their subjects one-on-one, engaging a majority of them via  social media platforms would be a sure way of receiving useful feedback. It therefore means leaders should develop a mechanism of monitoring what their subjects are saying on the social media for clues on what should top the county priority list.

Just like corporates have taken to social media to enhance customer care, county governments, through their communication desks should develop social media monitoring tools and policies to ensure constant touch with their constituents. As county governments struggle to have working structures in place, they need input of the citizens to exactly know their needs and wants. Constant surveillance of the social media can partly tell what citizens think about projects or plans being implemented across the counties.

Travis Crayton, an American social media enthusiast says “it is not enough for county governments (or any governments, really) to simply have accounts and post press releases. The pertinent questions should be: What value does these tweets and posts add to government? How do these posts advance citizen engagement and how do they improve the lives of citizens and make government better?”

Current trends indicate that most frustrated citizens opt to unleash their anger online. It is therefore upon county leadership to address issues behind such anger after crosschecking with the offices concerned.”

For the full article, click here.

To add to James Ratemo’s words, it is empirical that counties start and run pages that allow full interaction with the public. It could break down all the sectors in the county and dedicate a set amount of time to give information, answer queries, enact suggestions from the public and give a full evaluation.

The public also needs to be educated on their right to information. With this in mind, people can put pressure on their governor to perform office duties as is expected of them. This can also work to reduce corruption and other inconsistencies that often present themselves in public office regarding projects and budgetary allocations.

Accountability and transparency should be the themes of each county page set up. It would make it easier for voters gauge the developmental progress their governor has brought about and decided whether or not he/she deserves a second term. 

From this list of best and worst performing governors, those in their respective categories can and should make use of social media to analyse the social landscape and work to improve less that satisfactory areas.

Just as all organizations post only the good aspects of their company for PR purposes, this bias is likely to present itself in many if not all of these county pages. A way to curb this is have a separate entity not affiliated with the governors’s office manage the page.

The challenge may arise when rogue Kenyans use the platforms provided to conduct a witch-hunt, post malicious or false/inaccurate comments or even use them as advertising platforms. Kenyans need to be educated on the need to use the pages as a means to facilitate development and not stir up controversies that would only hamper development.

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