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A short-lived sparkle of light in government social media use

by Andrea Di Maio  |  August 19, 2010  |  4 Comments

This morning I met a group of people from a ministry in Helsinki, Finland, and I run through some of my material on government 2.0. As I faced the topic of overlapping personal and professional identities, and how employees can leverage personal use of social media for their employer’s benefits (Gartner clients can read Government Employees on Social Networks: Reversing the Burden of Proof for a more complete discussion), one attendee made a couple of comments that made me think that there is hope.

He clearly showed that he understood both benefits and risks of using his personal profile on social networks to be more successful in his role as a government employee.

He shared a great example. As part of his job, he suggested that his ministry used Twitter to publicize the availability of a program helping local companies establish links with foreign companies. He went through a number of steps to explore and get the required authorizations, until he was told that such a tweet could be issued only by the communications office but, apparently, there was no policy and process as to how to do that.

He was disappointed but did not give up. He decided to tweet about the program himself, just providing the URL of the program page, and  being careful not to formulate the tweet as coming from the Ministry, but as something shared by an individual who happened to have found this out.

I found this an interesting case that proves how employees can leverage their own social networks to get their job done, notwithstanding existing processes.

However when I thought I had found a model civil servant 2.0, he told me that he had just joined government from industry, an still had an official trainee status. While I hope he will keep an edge about the use of social media, I can’t help thinking that I may meet a very different, more rule-abiding person in a year time.

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Category: social-networks-in-government  

Tags: europe  government-20  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on A short-lived sparkle of light in government social media use

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alice Pilia and Andrea DiMaio, Tauqueer Ali. Tauqueer Ali said: RT @AndreaDiMaio: A short-lived sparkle of light in government social media use – #gov20 #opengov […]

  2. Paul says:

    Gov 2.0 is not going to be just a concept, but a change in policy, culture, staff education, internal governance, tools and more to make it happen. This needs to be looked at a bit more holistically to pull all of the pieces together.

  3. Martin-Éric says:

    I am touched to find my story mentioned here. Getting back to your last part of the comment, please let me reassure you: I tend to change job, whenever internal policies start getting in the way of getting things done, rather than bend to unacceptable policies.

    Anyhow, as I think that I tried to emphasize in my comments at our meeting, I share your skepticism about centralist policies and, so far, I am rather pleased with the receptivity I have found at the ministry for my sometimes unusually innovative ideas. Until recently, I though of the governmental sector and of several big traditional Finnish private sector entities as reluctant to change but, much to my amazement, they are simply hesitant to make the first step into the unknown and, whenever show a positive example of an initiative that takes into consideration their particular sensitivities, they suddenly prove very receptive to even the most crazy of my ideas.

  4. Martin-Éric says:

    PS: I fully agree with you about your worries that I’m just a trainee, although not in the same way that you probably implied:

    In Finland, we don’t have a system of recruiting future bureaucrats via a training program the way that e.g. France has.

    Instead, ministries tend to recruit people who already have the right formal education for the position they apply to, which is is usually a junior expert position, in the beginning of their careers. What are trainings for in Finland then? To acquire initial experience in that specific ministry, as a way to get one foot into the bureaucracy. This usually happens near the end of formal studies or, as in my case, via an employment office program to enable already experienced individuals to effect a career change by transferring their existing skills into a governmental position. In this case, the on-job training serves as a means to validate existing experience from another employment sector and acquire experience in a new job to acquire sufficient credibility to later apply for a position in the bureaucracy.

    Thus, while you are correct to worry about my being a mere trainee, I would suggest that it should be for entirely different reasons than whether my innovativeness will be broken into blind obedience. Instead, I submit to you that the real worry should be: What will remain of the expertise, innovativeness and positive attitude that I brought to my working group, after my training reaches its conclusion later this autumn and I’m no longer there?

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