May 1, 2012Doug Hadden
Doug Hadden, VP Products
There were some very interesting discussions after my presentation yesterday at the 26th Annual International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management (ICGFM) Spring Conference .
There was general agreement that mobile technology and social media has had governance effects. The ability for rapid
organization around an issue is disruptive because it circumvents traditional organizations.
One ICGFM member wondered whether the digital divide means that social media becomes another mechanism for elites at the expense of the poor. Another wondered whether social media is just another mechanism for groups to influence political discourse. My sense is that inexpensive mobile technology is broadening political efficacy and interaction. Social media has become a tool for the rising middle class in developing countries and accessible to the working poor. One ICGFM participant told me that SIM cards cost as low as 30 cents in one African country. And, we can’t forget that social media is leveraged by civil society as representatives of the poor. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the pre-mobile alternative.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the previous medium becomes content for the next. A poll at the conference found that many participants believe that social media is just another communication medium. Social media is used by companies, NGOs and pressure groups to broadcast messages. Advertising has become social. It’s still early days. It’s very much like the first years of television that borrowed from radio, vaudeville and cowboy movies. TV became TV much later – the medium became the message. Television producers learned what the medium can do. We shouldn’t look at the noise about social media advertising and viral videos to make conclusions about the resulting effects on society. After all, TV has changed.
The long-term change to public financial management will come through government interaction with citizens. One participant thought that my idea of ‘citizen auditors’ was fascinating. He thinks that open government and social media will provide more effective outcome feedback loops – much faster and inclusive with more participation than surveys or focus groups. The key change, in my opinion, is that citizens have the tools to report on government outcomes. It’s very difficult to determine effective outcome measurements. And, it’s difficult to get comprehensive reporting even when outcome metrics are good. Why not crowdsource? Citizens can suggest metrics and provide content related to whether objectives are being achieved – narrative, pictures, audio, video etc.
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