Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Govt blogs have work to do

By Liang Ma (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-18 07:49

The rise of social media and Web 2.0 technologies has transformed ordinary people's lives and their interactions with governments. Micro blog, WeChat and other social media applications are being increasingly adopted and used by government organizations and officials in China to facilitate communication between the government and the public. According to a recent report by the Office of Public Sentiment Monitoring, People's Daily Online, the numbers of micro blog accounts opened by government agencies and officials have reached record highs.

By the end of last year, about 160,000 government accounts had been verified on the Tencent micro blog platform. The Sina Weibo platform has about 100,000 accounts. If we consider the accounts on other platforms, such as Netease and People's Daily Online, the number of government micro blogs will add up to 300,000 with an average annual growth rate of more than 100 percent in the past five years.

More than 3,000 government agencies have been using WeChat, a popular mobile instant messenger application developed by Tencent, to interact with netizens on public administration and public policy issues. And the fact that China has the largest number of government micro blog accounts in the world can help it educate and serve the world's largest group of people with Internet access.

It is important to remember that citizens are not just passive recipients of public services, they are also contributors to the conception, design and implementation of policies. Social media have loosened authorities' control over media channels, and everyone can express their opinion and concern online. The ubiquitous use of social media gives people the opportunity to engage in government procedures and help improve governance.

The use of micro blog and WeChat by the government is an aspect of "Government 2.0", or the use of social media applications to make government more transparent, and enhance public participation and collaboration in governance. Government agencies harness cutting-edge information technologies to respond more deftly to people's needs and harmonize their mutual relationship in order to garner or consolidate public support. Government officials and civil servants use these applications to interpret their policy concerns and customize public services, which help them gain public support for their policies and programs.

Although social media can potentially transform the citizen-government relationship, it is not easy for bureaucratic-minded government agencies and officials to use them. The use of micro blogs by government agencies has thrown up some problems, and the merit of Government 2.0 depends largely on how the government addresses them.

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