I recently attended a seminar in Wellington on the use of social media in the Public Sector, organised by the Network of Public Sector Communicators. There were attendees from a variety of state agencies including the IRD, Ministry of Economic Development, State Services Commission, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Although it appears to be early days so far for public sector blogging, clearly the momentum is building if the level and intensity of discussion is anything to go by.
One of the attendees, Matthew Lane at the State Services Commission, alerted me to ?In Development?, a multi-author blog the Commission has just launched this month, for an initial six month trial period. As the blog explains, ?it?s an experiment for us to practice what we preach as we provide advice and guidelines to other agencies that are considering use of Web 2.0 tools to achieve their goals.?
The sector as a whole has been cautious. As Matthew Lane told me ?keep in mind the real purpose of this stuff. It is not valuable in and of itself to have a wiki or a blog. Are these things doing what we always wished we could do better than before? Sometimes wikis and blogs can be a waste of time?? I agree wholeheartedly. However, I do believe social media, if implemented correctly, can provide a level of responsible transparency that the Public Sector constantly seeks under its statutory obligations.
Incidentally, for a good explanation as to why Government Departments have been slow on the uptake, read Jason Ryan?s overview on his excellent blog. Jason is Communications Manager at the State Services Commission.
Currently, there is not a large number of agencies visibly raising their heads above the blogging parapet; though as one seminar attendee said, ?everyone is experimenting, and often people do not like to announce that due to fear of failure.?
Some public sector blogs appear to be little more than short-term experiments. Take this blog by the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC); a few posts in December, and then nothing.
Blogs with sporadic posts can nevertheless provide valuable insights. The NZAID Field Blog is a case in point. But I guess the nature of that blog merits some leeway as NZAID staff ?update the blog as they travel to the field to visit NZ-funded programmes and projects;? and this is from places as far ranging as Tonga, the PNG Highlands and Sri Lanka!
One of the most impressive and successful blogs by the New Zealand public sector has to be Lively, part of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage?s online portal NZLive.com. It?s just marked its first year online and the multi-authored blog is contributing to a significant footprint of valuable online resources.
We know there is much more to come. I will return to this topic as more social media initiatives come to the fore.