The vandals took the handle

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Social media altering the face of public information

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As  Sydney’s traffic built up on New Year’s Eve, social media was playing a key role in spreading details of congestion ‘hot spots’ and delays caused by accidents and broken down cars.

 A series of Twitter feeds, such as  Sydney City or Sydney Traffic North – constantly presenting information from the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW – helped people plot the best route to attend celebrations in Australia’s biggest city.

 This invaluable service is typical of one growing application of social media – in public safety and emergency notification. Elsewhere in the Sydney area, the Mosman and Wyong councils were also using their Twitter feeds to either ‘retweet’  locally-relevant traffic information, or issue details of local New Years Eve activities.

 Although relatively new in Australia, this type of use of social media is common in Europe and the US. And, it is proving a real success story.  For example, Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) updates its Twitter page with bulletins about structural fires, the number of responding firefighters, and injuries and casualties.

 When a commuter train derailed on September 12, 2008, in Chatsworth, California, killing dozens and injuring hundreds, the fire department tweeted several times to update the public about rescue operations.

And most  of us are aware of the substantial role that Twitter played in the aftermath of the recent bombings in India.

 People living adjacent to a recent wildfire in Griffith Park near Los Angeles, tweeted to the fire department about wind direction and smoldering hot spots, which helped firefighters control the 800-acre blaze.

 Around the globe, visionaries in the police, emergency bodies, councils and other local authorities are  embracing social media. For instance, the Portland  Police Department in Oregon uses its Twitter feed to distribute information about crime reports and sometimes ask the public for leads in cold cases.

 The growing use of social media by local councils in the UK is well documented, however one interesting example is Lichfield District Council, which now has a Twitter feed devoted to information about planning applications.

 The speed at which these type of social media applications are being picked up shows that communications at government level is changing rapidly indeed. 

The challenge for our bureaucrats is whether they have the maturity and courage to keep abreast of trends, or are satisfied with becoming increasingly irrevelant,  locked in outdated, last generation management?

Ian

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Written by ianandsue

January 8, 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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