Go digital or go home

By Deakin students, Jessie Cargill & Adrianna Seamer
GOVERNMENT must keep up with the Internet revolution and utilise web 2.0 in order to develop and maintain two way communication with society. That was the message from speakers at a recent Frocomm “In the Public Interest” forum held in Melbourne on August 27.
Speakers Peter Williams and Brian Gieson discussed the impact web 2.0 would have on society if the government accept the changes in online communication and social media.
The World Wide Web is the go-to tool for many businesses and organisations seeking to improve their communication. Web 2.0 is a new approach to communicating online, where users interact and collaborate in a shared network of groups and websites. Blogs, e-newsletters and Facebook pages are just a few ways of using Web 2.0 as a communication tool for businesses and organisations. While these organisations are confident and comfortable in using the Internet for this purpose, government organisations are slow to catch on.
CEO of Deloitte Digital Peter Williams believes governments should become the leaders in utilising web 2.0; allowing the public to access information easily and comfortably. Websites should provide information in an interactive manner. This is seen on Flowerdale.org, a website where residents in the bushfire affected area can go to find information on how to begin the rebuilding process in an easy way by clicking the links and filling in details.
“Open up the data, make it easy for citizens to use the data, and you’ll find that they’ll create value,” said Williams.
“What government 2.0 means in the long term is that it turns us from a representative democracy into the potential for a participative democracy.”
Youth Central, a website created for the Victorian Government by Williams in 2005, shows how social media can be used by governments to create an interactive environment for the public.
Zillow, an American real estate webpage providing listings of all house price estimates, allows the American public to at no charge view the value of their home and other houses. Webpages like this are not allowed by the Australian Government.
According to Williams, the government’s attitude towards web 2.0 is to control it, rather than just let it do what it wants to do.
“You don’t need a taskforce to open a fridge, so why do you need a taskforce to tell government how to use Web 2.0?” said Williams.
Another part of this problem is that many government employees can’t access social media in their workplace.
“The tools of the revolution are locked in the cupboards.
Director of digital strategy at Ogilvy PR Brian Gieson believes governments should use web 2.0 because the Internet is “where the people are”.
According to Gieson, 75 percent of adults are online and 50 percent are using social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
“If you look at where people go for trusted information today, it’s much different from 20 or 30 years ago,” said Gieson.
Web 2.0 should be used in a simple way, to ensure all people can access and understand the information provided. Gieson worked on creating a more simple website for U.S Medicare. A simpler website can be achieved through having information segmented into appropriate areas and providing only relevant information.
KFC used web 2.0 when introducing a new chicken burger, using social media KFC announced an hour of free chicken burgers, the turn out to this hour was massive, with people lining up around the block. In the world of Web 2.0 it is not about being too careful or worrying about what will work and what won’t work. Sometimes governments just have to get out there and take a risk.

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