“Social Media integrates technology, social interaction, and content creation using the “wisdom of crowds” to collaboratively connect online information. Through social media, people or groups can create, organize, edit, comment on, combine, and share content. It is ubiquitously accessible and enabled by scalable communication techniques that has resulted in the technology becoming an integral part of modern society.
This study examines the usage and importance of social media channels adopted by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago. It is recognized that social media channels offer unparalleled opportunities for the Government to interact with citizens and build relationships, largely due to their real-time, interactive nature of the web based platforms. The research involved an analysis of global internet and mobile broadband across specific geographic regions and this established the context to assess the social media channels used by the Government. Particular attention was paid to Government’s ICT Plan 2012-2016, which has the mandate of ensuring that Trinidad and Tobago will be a people-centred, knowledge-based nation, driven by the innovative use of ICTs, to enhance social, economic and cultural development. It was revealed that Trinidad and Tobago as at 2012 had an internet penetration rate of 52.3%. This means that over 660,000 citizens in the country regularly use internet. This is particularly noteworthy when one considers that the worldwide internet penetration rate is 32.3%. The active mobile broadband subscription per 100 persons in the country is quite low at 9%, the second lowest in all regions across the globe. Approximately 33% of the population are on Facebook. It is evident that social media is gaining increasing momentum in Trinidad & Tobago and in recognition of this phenomenon; the Government has made significant progress in bridging the digital divide through interactive web based technologies, resulting in improved level of service, active customer feedback and real time dissemination of information.
The national ICT Plan is a clear roadmap for the future of ICT in Trinidad & Tobago. However, Government has been relatively successful with a number of initiatives intended to bring e-services to the national community on an interactive web based platform. Some of these measures are identified below:
- Portal for Government services – Through TTconnect and IGovTT initiatives, Government has been very successful in providing information and public services to the national community.
- Websites for all Ministries – All Government ministries have interactive website that allow browsers to submit request for information and also for making suggestions for service improvements.
- Government Agencies – All Government Agencies similarly have interactive websites.
- On line services – On line applications for passport renewal and licenses
- On line education – This type of on line training is gaining prominence with the State funded local universities.
- National emergency messaging – Emergency messages in times of natural disasters are transmitted via the telecommunications company to all cell phones via text messaging.
- National Elections – Elections messages can be transmitted via social media platforms.
While the Government of Trinidad & Tobago has made significant progress in employing social media channels to reach the national community; it is evident that much more needs to be done to achieve its mandate of “internet for all”. The national ICT Plan 2012-2016 is a solid platform to build on; but several deliverables require significant funding from Government, robust project management, seamless integration of state Agencies and aggressive mobilization of resources. Ultimately, the real challenge for Government is to instil awareness and desire on the part of those that are still not familiar with internet based technologies and more so to fill this void by providing hands on, accessible, user friendly training, where and when required.” – Franklin Ali – San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago