Learner’s Submission: How can Citizens Contribute to the Achievement of the MDGs in Nigeria

15/08/2013

“Introduction:

At the UN Summit in September 2000 in New York, USA, eight MDGs were ratified. They are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Achieve universal primary education (UPE); Promote gender equality and empower women; Reduce child mortality; Improve maternal health; Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; Ensure environmental stability; and Develop a global partnership for development. Nigeria is a party to this ratification. However, with less than three years until December, 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs, Nigeria is still wide-of-the-mark to achieving these goals. Despite all the natural resource wealth Nigeria is endowed with, yet Nigeria lags behind in meeting the 2015 deadline. The greater challenge remains to make the citizens completely aware of the MDGs and the significant values they can add in achieving the MDGs.

It is against this background that this article examines the various ways Nigerian citizens can contribute alongside the government in achieving the MDGs. There is no exhaustive list in this regard. Given the foregoing, highlighted below are ways Nigerians can contribute to the achievement of the MDGs:

  • Involvement:

Greater results will be achieved when citizens are involved in the policy making processes that affect their lives alongside the government. If people are not involved or do not get themselves involved in the process then the end product of MDGs is a mirage. Nigerians seem to be out of the loop of what goes on in the economy. Many Nigerians are oblivious of who the leaders of various government institutions are, hence are unable to know who and for what to hold accountable. Progress in MDGs will be quite elusive if citizens are not conscious of the political and economic activities in the country.

  • Volunteerism:

Volunteerism is an area that has remained unexplored in Nigeria over the years; hence the multiplier effects accruing from volunteerism are lost. The interesting thing about volunteering is that it gives volunteers a first class experience of the challenges facing the areas they are working on, the recognition of the positive impacts on the lives of people in the economy, and the self satisfaction of being part of a team that fosters change on ground. Given Nigeria’s youth bulge, Nigeria is placed at a vantage position of what could be the most transformation in the history of Nigeria if the demographic dividends are harnessed to impact on the MDGs.

  • Empowerment:

Citizens make their voices heard through effective participation in monitoring and reporting of their daily life experiences. An average Nigeria owns a mobile phone and is able to communicate at a basic level. Given this context, creating an initiative where citizens can monitor economic and social activities through text messaging or calls has the great potentials of yielding positive results. Through these they can hold governments accountable on the promises they make.  MDGs cannot be achieved in isolation; people need to be empowered to empower others; and it goes on like a chain reaction.

  • Believe in Nigeria:

Across Nigeria, there is a wind of despondency blowing, especially in the minds of young Nigerians. Albert Einstein rightly said that “weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” The way Nigerians perceive Nigeria and react to issues that affect Nigeria makes a big difference in solving challenges that behold Nigeria. However, the mindset of the people determines their thoughts; their thoughts direct their behaviour; and their behaviour forms the general belief. Nigerians need to develop a dyed-in-the-wool spirit for Nigeria; a spirit that Nigeria is for all; hence Nigeria’s failure is a failure for all.

  • Collaboration:

The sixth MDG that is concerned with combating HIV/SAIDS, malaria, and other diseases needs collaboration among people for much headway to be made. This goal requires high-priority of hygiene, which is not solely exclusive to an individual. Diseases are spread from individual to individual; hence fight against spread of diseases can be promoted from the pragmatic stand point that involves everyone to maintain high level of hygiene.

 

  • Respect for one another:

There is poverty of respect for human dignity among Nigerians. This is manifested in the ways Nigerians treat each other. Nigerians see themselves with different perception of identity. Intolerance among Nigerians has eroded the respect for each other. This poses a greater challenge in bringing people together to work for a common purpose, hence mounting a severe strain on the MDGs. The love, strength and faith labored by Nigeria’s heroes past as reflected in Nigeria’s coat of arms should be upheld by Nigerians in dealing with each other to build a unity of purpose needed to make headway on the MDGs.

Conclusion:

Achieving the MDGs is a collective effort of every Nigerian and not an exclusive role of the government. Given the lag in delivering on the MDGs it has become a clarion call for every Nigerian to put hands on deck to add value, no matter how little, in achieving the MDGs. In this regard, everyone has a role to play; MDGs are everybody’s tasks; every effort you make in the process adds a great value; your little effort today can foster change and make a big difference. To conclude, Nigerians need to sacrifice their comfort zones and get involved in the tasks of the MDGs.” – Chukwuma Okonkwo – Abuja, Nigeria


Learner’s Submission: Social Media in India

09/04/2013

“India is the second most populated country in the world and a country with the highest youth population. Therefore, in this age of technology, the best way to reach the population is through social media channels.
According to a study by research firm IMRB International and Internet and Mobile Association of India, around 60percent of Social media access happens from small towns. The info- graphic image released as part of the study reveals that out of the 111 million Internet users in the country, the active Internet users consist of 89 million and the total social media users are 66 million. This means that 2 out of 3 active internet users use the internet for social media. In terms of mobile Internet, the active mobile internet user base in India is of 39.7 million and the active social media user base is 32.5 million. Besides, it also reveals the leading social websites in the country where Facebook tops the list by 97%, followed by Google+ of 34%, LinkedIn 17%, Twitter 17%, Orkut 14% and finally Ibibo 6%. India ranks third in the world in terms of active Facebook users.
All these statistics point out that the best way to reach the masses is through social media channels. The Government of India is actively participating in the channelizing information through social media channels like Facebook, Twitters, etc. Several ministries under the government have their own official Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn accounts through which official information is passed out to the masses. One can simply follow these pages/accounts to stay updated with the latest updates. Also, various ministries also post information related to Job openings, Campaigns, awareness through these channels.
Government Sites in India, sometimes, are too complicated to navigate and find exact information. However, if the same information when transferred through social media channels, which are people are used to navigating, makes people’s job easier. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is very active on Facebook and Twitter. Being a follower of the ministry, I see new posts every day regarding India’s external affairs and this actually enhances people’s knowledge regarding the country relations with other countries. “We know where the country is heading.”
As per recent news, the government of India is planning to have special social media departments in all ministries to communicate directly with the youth. The Planning Commission is the first in the line as it has already submitted a proposal for creating a separate wing of young professionals who will promote the Planning Commission and its schemes on social media tools, like Facebook, Twitter and Google hangout.
However, with a country with 1.25 billion people, it is difficult to manage these accounts and that’s the challenge these ministries are facing at the moment. Hundreds of questions are asked everyday and most of the time; none of these are reverted back. It is a challenge to communicate with people on social media. While various ministries are already on the social networking sites, it is becoming difficult to manage the flow of communication with the public. The government will have to expand its infrastructure to fully utilise the social media platform. Therefore, the Government is now seeking for professional who will manage the social media departments of these ministries; generating job opportunities in turn.

(For example: At least 12 young professional will be needed to manage the social media department in the Planning Commission itself, who will generate/modify content to advertise about the Commission’s plans and schemes with the public. Currently, Planning Commission has around 5,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 on Facebook.)” – Kiran Ashok Apsunde – Maharashtra, India.


Learner’s Submission: The Importance of Networks

21/03/2013

“The importance of networks is given by the application, reflection and maturation of KM – Knowledge Management – in all sectors involving group relations in a democratic and decentralized way between public knowledge and sensitive knowledge, mostly in how to deal with new challenges and deployment between BI – business intelligence and CI – Competitive intelligence. Its importance goes beyond reception, connection and dissemination of information and knowledge.

It aims to balance and focus on challenges and unpredictability of future prospective of the society and the world through the wide dialog actually disseminated and debated by the networks. Another important point of the networks is the potential to unite the people and cultures regardless of country, as the communication has its biggest benefit that is to unite humanity and its knowledge in the search of improvement and solutions to continuous evolution and to ensure two-way direct diplomacy.

The access to information, the transparency of public property strengthens democracy and knowledge of the people valuing the individual. It allows people to interact directly with information being able to openly discuss it and helps to improve on a healthy basis the social politics, science and technology development. Social Networks has made easier to fight corruption through identification, connection and dissemination of knowledge with its powerful tool that is avoiding that knowledge suffers censor and misinformation by groups against law enforcement.

On the other hand there is also the risk of hoax. However, the same social networks can protect and instruct about how to avoid hoax using tools to provide search of information and knowledge. In Brazil, we have examples of flagrant from sectors in the media and politicians that were corrupted and tried to censor information to the public. Thanks to these networks, such groups of corrupts and criminals were identified. Also, abusive bills were re-discussed and reevaluated forcing politicians to make necessary changes to attend society according to the democratic state of Law.

True peace is constantly celebrated through the debate of ideas and sustainable arguments as has been occurring through networks. On a democratic way it helps to produce alternatives to reflection and meditation on conflict management and resolution allowing societies to auto adjust with no need of excessive State paternalism. Social Networking has been the main and most modern means for the people to achieve a customary law with harmony and knowledge, gradually reducing culture shocks by increasing learning.

Another example to be followed is the work that is being produced by UN in Brazil via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ONUBrasil that has been maintaining population informed and interactive with subjects that are not always transmitted by the Brazilian media, which has few informative and clarifying vehicles of information. The UN channel, ONU Brasil, has been of great importance emphasizing topics that surprised Brazilian people who sometimes don’t even imagine what happens around the world. My reflection is that through this channel, UN has broken a huge barrier in communication and a kind of knowledge that was far beyond people’s eyes and ears.” – Graziano Nardis – Santa Catarina, Brazil


Learner’s Submission: Online Public Services in India

18/03/2013

Example of Online services – Indian Railways – Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation – (IRCTC)
India with 1,220,200,000 (1.22 billion) people is the second most populous country in the world. The figures show that India represents almost 17.31% of the world’s population. More than 50% of India’s current population is below the age of 25 and over 65% below the age of 35. About 72% of the population lives in some 660,000 villages and the rest 27.8% in about 5,480 towns and in cities. This shows that people distribution across the country and their mobility for various reasons are of vital importance. To meet the ever demanding transportation need of people Indian Railways nationalized government organization is one of the best. Indian railways also happens to be pride of India considering this to be largest in Asia and the second largest in the world.

In view of reaching out to people, Indian Railways has extensively utilized Information Technology, Mobile technology and extended Online services to people. Following paragraphs will discuss about the available Online services to Indian public:

Indian railways which has history since about April 1853. About 85 percent of the stations have interlocking system of signaling which provides greater safety, by eliminating human errors and failure. It is one of the world’s largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track over a route of 65,000 km (40,000 mi) and 7,500 stations. As of December 2012, it transported over 25 million passengers daily In 2011, It carried over 8,900 million passengers annually or more than 24 million passengers daily (roughly half of which were suburban passengers) and 2.8 million tons of freight daily. In 2011-2012 Indian Railways earned US$18.98 billion which consists of US$12.68 billion from freight and US$5.21 billion from passengers tickets.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation – (IRCTC) is a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles the catering, tourism and online ticketing operations of the railways. IRCTC is better known facilitating online railway ticketing in Indi when compared to crowded railways reservation counters which existed till recently. Manned railways counters faced several problems like passengers spending away precious time in a long queues, lack of transparency, shortage of information, fatigue factor of employees leading to errors, no options for quick change in travel plans, etc.

IRTC is known for Internet-based on-line rail ticket booking through its website which allowed people to register and login. This online reservation system allowed people select the trains, places and suitable optional trains and timings to travel, class of travel, fare display and dates of availability, reservation status, PNR status, payment options like credit card, debit card and other options. Finally to book the tickets and print it. Recently mobile based bookings have also been operational and SMS message has been authorized to travel and again a environmentally friendly initiative.

Ticket cancellations or modifications can also be done online. In addition to E-tickets, IRCTC also offers I-tickets that are basically like regular tickets except that they are booked online and delivered by post. The Tickets PNR Status is also made available here recently.

IRCTC’s highest ever per day booking is 5.02 lakh e-tickets on 1 March 2013. There are about 7.5 lakh people who visit IRCTC website for various purposes. 1.4 crore transactions that the website processed in February.

Example of civic agency’s Online Servicers: BBMP: Bangalore Mahanagara Palike
Bangalore is well known as silicon valley of India is in Karnataka state in southern India. Bangalore city’s population is growing faster than ever before and by the end of the year its head count is likely to cross the one-crore mark. The city’s population stands at 95,88,910 as of now. BBMP is an s the administrative body responsible for the civic and infrastructural assets of the Bangalore metropolitan area .spread across 741 Sqkm.

BBMP has introduced several online services to its citizens like Online Property Tax Payment, property tax calculations, tax submission status, GIS based Property ID (PID), online buildings plan submissions and sanctions.

Example of Income tax department In India and its Online services
Filing of IT returns electronically mandatory for individuals with annual income of Rs 10 lakh or above. This online transaction and services has helped many tax payers for hassle free filing of Income tax returns. The procedure to file online tax returns is quite simple. One has to opt for a suitable return form and fill in all the details. Once submitted system generates XML generated which must be posted to the appropriate authorities.

India has about 3.4 crore income tax payers. Personal income tax increased by 15 per cent to touch Rs 1,12114 crore, which was mainly from the salaried class. Corporate tax collections at Rs 2,78,411 crore, accounted for as much as 83 per cent of the total direct tax collections of Rs 3,36,117 crore during April-February of this fiscal.” – M. S. Rajesh – Bangalore, India


Learner’s Submission: Access to Data in Austria

12/03/2013

“Austria became an independent republic in 1955 after the Second World War and since 1995 has been a Member of the European Union (EU). As a Member State of the EU, Austria is obliged to implement laws issued by the EU within its legal framework to ensure compliance at the national level with EU law.

The enactment of the right of access to data is covered in the regulations on data protection. The data protection law in Austria aims to regulate the free flow of data and, most importantly, to protect data privacy of citizens.

The first data protection laws in Europe were enacted in the late 1960s as a response to the emergence of the electronic data processing. The German State of Hessen passed the world’s first regional data protection law in 1970 (Room, 2007, pp. 7–8).

An important role of the EU is to provide directives, which serve as guidance for all EU Member States to follow. At the European level, Directive 95/46/EC, commonly known as the Data Protection Directive, is the main reference within the EU pertaining to the protection of personal data of citizens in EU Member States. The Directive was adopted in 1995 and states that EU Member States shall provide the data subject with “the existence of the right of access to and the right to rectify the data concerning him”. Article 12 of the Directive provides the data subject’s right of access to their personal data (Publications Office of the European Union, 1995, pp. 31–42).

The implementation of the EU directive on Data Protection differs in EU Member States as EU directives are not legally binding, however, only set out the basic standards and recommendations for EU Members to incorporate them into their national legislation.

The right to the protection of data is also recognized by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was proclaimed in 2000 and became a statutory law through the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Article 8 of the EU Charter states that “

  • Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her” and in addition:
  •  “Such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law.
  • Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified” (Publications Office of the European Union, 2000, p. 10).

Prior to Austria joining the EU in 1995, a privacy protection law was already in place since 1978. The regulatory authority for data protection in Austria is the Austrian Data Protection Commission, which was founded in 1980 as one of Europe’s oldest data protection authority. The Austrian Data Protection Commission is a governmental authority responsible for ensuring compliance of data regulations, as required by the Data Protection Act (Österreichische Datenschutzkommission, 2013).

After becoming a Member of the EU, Austria was requested to harmonize its existing laws in accordance with EU directives and regulations. Consequently, in 1999 the old Austrian privacy protection law from 1978 was amended to comply with the EU Directive 95/46/EC. The result of this amendment was the Federal Act concerning the Protection of Personal Data (DSG 2000), still the current legislation governing data protection in Austria (Österreichische Datenschutzkommission, 2013).

Personally I have never exercised my right to access my own personal data. However, I am aware that access to personal information in Austria requires a person to submit a written request under § 26 DSG 2000 to the organization or entity concerned. The organisation must respond to the request within eight weeks. This request is free of charge, unless there was a similar request sent for information in that same year (Österreichische Datenschutzkommission, 2013).

The currently existing EU Data Protection Directive is under discussion to be amended and streamlined to address the differences in data protection legislations implemented by individual EU Member States to guarantee same level of protection for personal data. As a result, the European Commission envisages a uniform common European law on data protection to be regulated by the relevant national supervisory authority. However, there is still a long way to go before completion of the discussions on a consistent application of data protection legislation across the EU (European Parliament, 2013, p. 2).

References:

European Parliament. (2013). Data protection day: is your private life safe?, p. 2. Brussels.

Österreichische Datenschutzkommission. (2013). Welcome to the Website of the Austrian Data Protection Commission. Österreichische Datenschutzkommission. Retrieved February 9, 2013, from http://www.dsk.gv.at

Publications Office of the European Union. (1995). Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ L 281).

Publications Office of the European Union. (2000). Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01).

Publications Office of the European Union. (2007). Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, signed at Lisbon, 13 December 2007 (OJ C 306).

Room, S. (2007). Data Protection & Compliance in Context. United Kingdom: British Information Society Limited.” – Elfriede Bosch – Vienna, Austria


Learner’s Submission: Socia Media Channels Used by the Government of India

08/03/2013

“India is a land of 1.2 billion people. Sixty-five percent of the Indian population lives in villages.
600,000 villages with diversified religion, culture and beliefs and low level of literacy. Its a task by itself to bring them together on common platform. To achieve such goals number of multiple process and mechanism must work in tandem.

Yet governments at the centre and state have been working hard to provide a Information Technology infrastructure at urban and also grass root level at villages.

Presently there about 137 million internet users in India. 44 million smartphone users, Facebook users are 65 million. And India had around 18 million Twitter accounts .India will reach somewhere in the vicinity of 250-350 million Internet users by 2015.

With all the above mentioned data, Internet, social media has a power to contribute to the growth of India. Government has chalked out a plan and few many things have been IT and social media initiatives have been implemented to reach and serve its citizen using social media. The following paragraphs will discuss about the social media initiatives of Government:

Indian Prime Minister‟s Office –PMO has made its presence felt at Twitter with about 50,000 followers. This means Government has opened up channel for common people to reach PM. Without itself being present on social media as it was earlier, citizens had way to directly connect tot PM‟s office.

Recently PMO was also present itself on Facebook and YouTube. This again helps common people to stay connected with PM and also YouTube helps PM to reach its people by uploading a PM speeches which spells out plans for development and other benefits for people.

Karnataka government has Facebook presence regarding its youth policy initiative by the Department of Youth Services and Sports, Government of Karnataka. This is useful in communicating to youth about State‟s policy. Youth Policy takes inspiration from National Youth Policy to formulate an integrated youth policy that is in sync with the changing socio-economic conditions of the youth of the State.

Government of Karnataka is on Facebook to inform the citizens about governments various s developmental schemes. Other government departments have also been encouraged to utilize social media network to serve and reach citizens. Few government departments are:

KSRTC: Karnataka state road transport corporation – This is a government of Karnataka official transport corporation which runs about 25.79 lakhs effective kilometers transporting about 25 lakh people per day. KSRTC‟s on social media is again a customer and passenger friendly initiative. KSRTC has also online reservations system which Internet dependent.

Bangalore Traffic police is another government department on Facebook. Here, Facebook presence of Traffic police has helped in establishing a communication channel to interact with common people about Do’s and Don’ts of traffic rules. and safety aspects. Social media also has helped people to post their road users issues on the media. This has helped in quickly resolving the issues related with road and traffic. Police has made arrangements for people to post traffic violations on the social media. This would enable police department to initiate action against the offender and importantly with people participation and social media vigilance becomes more intense.

Karnataka examinations authority –KEA is an official state examinations authority handling examinations concerned with graduate, postgraduate and other higher education examination related activities. KEA also handles most of the competitive entrance examination concerned with undergraduate and PG students. KEA interacts with nearly 5.0 lakh students and their eligibility criteria and qualification. KEA is again on Facebook which has reached million of students through Facebook. This yet another example of governments departments utilizing power of social media to reach its target.

Department of Survey, Settlement & Land Records Government of Karnataka is also on Facebook which caters to the needs of people who seek services of surveys of lands and access to land records.

Bangalore Electricity company –BESCOM is also a Government participated department which supplies electricity to 20 million households and industrial customers. BESCOM connects its customers through social media – Facebook.

Bangalore water supply and sewage board: BWSSB is a government of Karnataka authority for drinking water and drainage- Government Organization -The Bangalore Water Supply And Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is committed to providing drinking water of unquestionable quality in sufficient quantity and to treat the sewage generated to the required standards. BWSSB reaches and connects its large million customers with help of social media like Facebook and Twitter. Here customers can reach the concerned officials through social media.
B B M P (Bruth Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) is a government of Karnataka department responsible for all civil infrastructures. BBMP handles its large number of varied customers for various works. BBMP is also utilizing social media like Facebook to connect its customers.

Social media boom happened in 2012. According to research the number of Indian Facebook users swelled by 14 million in the past six months. While internet penetration in India is just 11% around 137million users make the country third biggest in terms of Internet -connected citizens. Most of these users are urban and young. Research says 75% of web users here are under-35. Indians are politically active on the web. Research study this established that nearly 45% of Indian web users, most of them from urban areas, connect on social media to discuss politics.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) opened its Twitter account under the name “Indian Diplomacy” which is a verified account with more than 7,000 as of present. The efforts of MEA have been appreciated by many during the recent crisis to evacuate Indian nationals from Libya as information was relayed on a regular basis. There is also a YouTube account created as well which hosts more than 50 documentary films on various subjects and has received more than 19,000 hits.

Indian Postal service, world‟s largest postal network took to Twitter to connect to its users and citizens. They have been answering to queries posted by users related to service and how it can be used easily. They currently have more than 6,500 followers. In Addition, the government department also launched an exceptional “ePost Office” which would add up as an e-Commerce platform in the future.

Various government schemes for social welfare have been on Facebook , the purpose is to reach out youth and have direct interaction with government. Even heads of the government‟s are making their presence on the social media.

Banks and financial institutions do also have social media presence: Indian jobs scene has gone through tremendous change over in recent years. Education levels have been impressive and Information technology jobs are plentifully available. Young customers and at the same time are technologically aware and also in possession of high end mobile handsets. All these have made bank and financial institutions to offer their services and products on social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube. Banks offer customers with a variety of apps, product information, and utilize this platform to increase financial literacy. Banks utilize this space to manage our online reputation. Digital marketing is catching up fast with banks offering many products and facilities on social media.

In disaster management social media has been extensively used in situations like the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the swine flu pandemic .During Mumbai attacks people utilized social media to know the location and donate blood to needy Tweets were sent right form site of the tragedy.

E-Governance is another term which has been given due importance since evolution of Information technology and Information and Communication Technology(ICT). Electronic-governance (E-Governance) is defined as application of Information and communication technology in delivering the government services, government transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between Government-to-Citizens (G2C), Government-to-Business(G2B),Government-to-Government( G2G) as well as back office processes and interactions within the entire government departments.

Elections and social media is another important medium for government connecting to people specifically younger generation. During general elections politicians these days have been liberally using Facebook and twitter. As we know You tube has been extensively used by one of the governments to showcase all the speeches and developmental programmes taken up by the governments This video has been quite popular among youth.

Census –  The process of counting of population was taken to social media as well to ask citizens to fill in their information accurately and in full during the time of visit of an enumerator. The initiative was launched on Facebook and Twitter with an on ground campaign in the offing as well. The Facebook page currently has more than 14,000 likes and Twitter profile has nearly 500 followers.

Planning Commission of India – Planning Commission of India have been using its Facebook page to ask users to submit their expectations and ideas for the twelfth five year plan (2012 – 2017). Following the ideas, they would be included in the approach paper to be approved by cabinet and National Development Council.

Conclusion
137 million internet users in India. 44 million Smartphone users, Facebook users are 65 million. And India had around 18 million Twitter accounts .India will reach somewhere in the vicinity of 250-350 million Internet users by 2015. Indian citizens will have highly transparent government and interactive politicians. Social media has a important role to play in terms of connecting to people, awareness about welfare schemes, local area development activity, monetary spending transparency. Social media is here to stay and developing countries are going to be major beneficiaries of the social media movement.” – M.S. Rajesh – Bangalore, India


Learner’s Submission: The Importance of Social Media Channels Used by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago

15/02/2013

“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:

  1. Portal for Government services – Through TTconnect and IGovTT initiatives, Government has been very successful in providing information and public services to the national community.
  2. 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.
  3. Government Agencies – All Government Agencies similarly have interactive websites.
  4. On line services – On line applications for passport renewal and licenses
  5. On line education – This type of on line training is gaining prominence with the State funded local universities.
  6. National emergency messaging – Emergency messages in times of natural disasters are transmitted via the telecommunications company to all cell phones via text messaging.
  7. 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


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