E-governance still needs to go a long way
Government services in this part of the world are facing so many challenges; focusing on speed, efficiency, and lifting the hefty hand of bureaucracy on the governmental processes are few examples.
Going smart or transforming to e-government in the days of the Internet and communication networks is a dream most of the governments in the region are chasing with different degrees of success.
And when the social media networks came, with its booming popularity especially among the youth, governments decided to try it as a new channel to relate to the public.
Unfortunately, according to the report “Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media” published by Mohamed bin Rashid School of Government recently, the image of government services on social media does not look that bright.
In the introduction, the report emphasized on the growth of social media consumption globally, with Facebook leading the way with 1.28 billion monthly active users (79 percent of them accessing the platform from mobile devices), by the end of the first quarter of 2014.
Twitter is also booming with 255 million monthly active users for the same period (78 percent from mobile devices).
In the Arab world, apparent growth by 49 percent on Facebook, 54 percent on Twitter and 79 percent on LinkedIn were reported since May 2013.
Now, back to the government services on social media, a staggering 2 percent of respondents reported visiting social media channels as “a first resort for finding information on public services.”
This should become as alarming for those looking after the governmental services presence on social media; one of the major social media accounts roles is to provide information and guidance about the organization’s services, actually, out of those using social media, 74 percent reported that they are mainly using it to access information about the services, so if people are turning away from it to find that information, then there must be something going wrong.
Around 30 percent of respondents cited the regular search engines as the primary source of information about public services.
In an attempt to measure the engagement between the public and the governmental body providing the services, only 42 percent of respondents reported feeding back the service provider about their service, 19 percent of them used the online feedback options, and 11 percent provided the feedback through social media. Interestingly though, around 47 percent of social media users in the region reported that they are not using their own social media accounts to discuss governmental services!
Although the report provided no explanation for such findings, I guess it is another indication that the engagement, the relationship between the people and the public services providers is not that strong and it is mostly filled with distrust.
The report is full of other good indications and conclusions that public service providers need to consider and think about in order to provide satisfactory services to its customers. Till that happens, they have a long way to go.