From presence to dialogue, an indispensable step for a PA that wants to be social and participatory
Administrations are far from using social as a function of citizen interaction and engagement. Citizens are the added value of any entity; they create value, expertise, solutions. Social networks must become an enabling tool and facilitator of a new way of being public administration, as well as a tool for confrontation.
The new communication technologies, in addition to opening sociological debates on their use, raise debating readings on the issue of participation, which in this period cannot and should not be considered separate and distant from that of digital citizenship. And so the lowest common multiple between participation, digital citizenship, democracy and new technologies is certainly the world of social networks.
Having ascertained the need for public administrations to man the network and having established the technologies they have at their disposal, the next step that needs to be taken is to understand that mere presence is not enough, and that social networks are the tool that more than any other can break down the wall separating the right of citizenship from the exercise of it. Participation, citizenship and democracy are phenomena that have always been connected but whose ties have been loosening over the years, partly due to socio-political changes. Today these ties have with the Internet a chance to be strengthened, but for this to happen it is necessary that those who use this tool have the knowledge and skills to do so.
With social networks, public administrations can finally rediscover interaction with citizens who, albeit under the guise of a virtual username, can once again become real citizens. The road traced by new technologies is thus aimed at dialogue. Some administrations, as reflected in the ICity Rate 2017 annual report (more on which can be found in the Focus On section), have already grasped the importance of this strategy. Turin, Bologna and Ferrara are the cities that have activated the most social channels, Rome and Milan the ones with the most fans and followers.
The low ratio of followers to followers on Twitter and the gap in numbers between real and virtual citizens indicate that administrations are mostly far from using social media as a function of citizen interaction and engagement. Instead, digital public communication using social networks cannot only be unidirectional and asynchronous, but needs to become at least bidirectional and synchronous. To do this, new technologies can certainly help, but a further step, this time not technological but cultural, cannot be ignored.
Administrations need to be aware that citizens are not just the bearers of problems or controversies: citizens are the added value of any entity; citizens create value, expertise, and solutions. Therefore, tools are not enough to bring novelty to PAs, but training is needed so that this belief becomes the bread and butter of administrators.
Social networks must become an enabling tool and facilitator of a new way of being public administration, as well as a tool for confrontation.
This post is also available in: Italian