Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When the State Tweets, Everyone Follows

The recent (belated) suspension of classes due to stormy weather led to a rather interesting phenomenon in twitterverse. Fake accounts of CHED and other authorities (i.e. Chancellor Saloma of UP) responsible for a more prompt announcement of class disruptions came cropping up. And the twittizens who started following are not few. It is only understandable that when the State tweets, in the desire to be apprised of state announcements (read: particularly that very elusive class suspension), everyone starts clicking the follow button.

More than the creation of a law penalizing such misdemeanors, I think a more appropriate approach should come from the Executive. Government agencies should set up their own facebook or twitter accounts in order to (1) give timely and much-needed information to the citizens and (2) ward off posers. Twitter’s timeline and facebook’s news feed are, after all, faster than the usual text brigades.

DepEd did advise the school heads to maintain their own websites or social networking portals in order to create direct links to their students and personnel. We can only hope that it extends the same advice to its sister/brother agency, the CHED, so that frustrated, suspension-hungry and internet-savvy tertiary students won’t resort to creating poser accounts.

Of course one can argue that the creation of government websites and social portals do not necessarily equate to timely delivery of information. Take for example the case of the earthquake which rocked Luzon just a couple of nights before. Earthquake related tweets came flooding the timeline as soon as the earthquake itself started. But the government’s official reports came only a full hour later… when no netizen cared about it anymore. This is in stark contrast to Inquirer who came in with collated ‘tweet reports’ just five minutes after the quake. It was even able pinpoint specific affected points in Luzon from the tweets of the shocked citizens.

Another consideration for a state-run website and social portal is the security issue. Hacked government websites and portals are not uncommon. We have seen the MWSS, Bureau of Customs, LGUs, and even the Congress websites hacked. Instead of being helpful, these portals provided false information which made their constituents dubious of their government’s capacity to be accurate and… well… helpful at all.

But these considerations are not impossible to overcome. Like in the performance of any other governmental function in this country, nothing is fool proof. Even if it’s just about as simple as tweeting a class suspension. This does not mean however that the government should just give up all together. All the government needs is a computer technician who can be there at the most crucial moments, a trained ‘media team’ (a.k.a. twitter team), and accurate information which they should deliver before anyone else does. The formula is really simple. @MMDA does it. It’s high time the rest of the bureaucracy follow.

Because in this stormy day and quake-filled age, though the civil servants trained in the ‘primitive ways’ may deny it, promptness and accuracy are standards which every netizen use to determine whether they have a working government or not.

Entry # 6

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