Cities Embrace Social Networking
The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) recently published a research paper entitled “Civic Engagement and Local E-Government: Social Networking Comes of Age.”
The IPCE did a comprehensive analysis of the content on government websites in the 75 largest U.S. cities and 20 largest Illinois cities between March and May of 2011. Their research emphasizes the use of technology to enhance and inform citizen engagement, as well as to enhance and inform government decision-making and service delivery.
Among their findings, the IPCE reported that in 2011, social networks were much more common across local government websites than in 2009. Among the 75 largest U.S. cities, 87% used Twitter and Facebook and 75% had YouTube links. This marks a rapid increase of 250% to over 600% during the two-year period since the previous study.
Now as more local governments offer the opportunity for discussion through social networking sites, 6 city websites had hosted town hall meetings in the 2011 analysis, whereas none had done so in 2009. While the number of town hall meetings is still very small, together with the adoption of social networks, this may indicate a more general willingness among local governments to experiment with technology for dialogue with citizens.
The research paper raises some interesting questions regarding how the local governments are actually using these social media sites, asking if public discussions are actually occurring online. What remains to be seen is, how these sites facilitate discussions and what influence, if any, they have on public policy.
Read the full paper here:
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