Archive for February, 2011

What Can Government Learn from a Cell Phone?

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

More and more government agencies are jumping on the social media bandwagon, but not all are starting with a social media policy. Some simply go forth and facebook, not realizing the ramifications of generating official information on a third party website. Are social media policies really needed?


I’d like to use an analogy to illustrate the importance.

According to Wikipedia, the first handheld mobile phone call was placed in 1973, but cell phones did not gain widespread adoption until 25 years later. What took so long?

One significant reason was the need for other technical and functional requirements to make the phone usable in a practical way.

Requirements like:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Cost
  • Network
  • Battery

If the phone was too big and heavy, it wouldn’t work. If the cost was too high, it wouldn’t work. If the network was unreliable, couldn’t work. If the battery life… you get the point.

The mobile phone industry had to wait for these other technologies to mature; only then could the cell phone gain traction in the mainstream marketplace. It’s not just about developing a wireless phone… it’s also about making all these other elements work together to make the phone truly mobile.

In the same way, when we talk about social media for government, there are functional and technical requirements that need to be developed in order for social media to be successful. As government entities, we have legislative requirements regarding official state information being posted on a website. As government employees, we are held to a higher standard of conduct, even on our personal time. As government agencies, there is a higher expectation of transparency and accessibility of information. And on and on.

Requirements like accessibility, record retention, security, privacy, acceptable use, etc. definitely apply to content being generated on social networking sites, and if you don’t have a policy to take care of these items, I’m not sure how your social media initiative can be successful and sustainable.

The good news is over the years, agencies have figured out how to address the requirements to be compliant, which vary across states and levels of government. There are many examples of successful and innovative social media initiatives in government emerging across the world.

If you need examples, check out

Policies aren’t just for appeasing your legal counsel. They describe how the critical technical and functional requirements will be met as a government entity. If you have a presence on social networking sites and don’t have a policy yet, please consider forming one quickly.

Categories: Social Media Tags: , , ,

Is Web 2.0 Always the Way to Go?

February 9, 2011 4 comments

Just because government is further behind the private sector when it comes to jumping on the Web 2.0 train doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of chatter about getting on board. I’ve heard things like

“We need an app where citizens can take pictures of potholes or graffiti with their camera phone, geotag the location, and have it entered into a maintenance request in real time which then generates a tweet with the work order.”


“We need an iPhone app that can play a song of their choice and as it gets closer to their registration renewal date, the song will play faster and faster until they renew their license.”


“We want a platform-agnostic, web-based application that can pull public datasets from every agency overlayed on top of a Google maps mashup with an augmented reality iPhone and Android app integrated into a custom Gowalla trip with flickr integration and vote up/vote down capabilities.”

Ok… I’m exaggerating. But my point is, sometimes we get so enamored by the shiny new jewel that we forget about less attractive options that might be just as useful, if not better than the shiny jewels.

More specifically, I’m talking about text messaging, the premier choice of communication for an overwhelming demographic in this day and age. The statistics are so astounding, there’s no need to list them. Just ask a teenager. People like love being able to communicate in quick, asynchronous digital bits, and this is definitely a channel that works well with government communication needs.

an old flip phone

SMS is so simple, even this old flip phone can do it!

Yesterday, I came across an article in the New York Times blog about a service for pregnant women and young mothers that sends text messages with health tips, information, and resources based on their location. What a great idea!


  • simple,
  • effective,
  • inexpensive,
  • don’t require smartphones,
  • unobstrusive, and
  • completely integrated with normal communication channels.

With all the convenience and benefits of text messaging, why aren’t more government programs getting on board? I’m not saying that nobody uses SMS, but I hear so much more about Twitter, Facebook and other more 2.0 types of tools.

What do you think? Even though it’s not as “shiny” as some other applications, should government use text messaging more often? What are some other examples of highly effective programs taking advantage of this tool?

Categories: eGov Tags: , , ,

Presentation from the Tx Gov 2.0 Camp on 1/28/2011

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

On Friday 1/28, I had the opportunity to present with Dustin Haisler at the Texas Gov 2.0 Camp in Austin, TX. Our session was about transparency in government, and I talked about DIR’s Biennial Performance Report from last November.

You can access the presentation by clicking on the image below.

Transparency and the Performance Report PowerPoint title screen shot