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Importance of social media usage by government officials

Government need to hand-pick people or to train individuals who could stand in front and centre, to represent and lead the country through effective use of social media, conveying important messages in a controlled and reassuring way.

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As the entire country is pinned down into submission by the unbreakable shackles of the current lockdown, everyone is forced to form an actual global village online. It has now become somewhat of a mandatory duty for our government officials and bureaucrats to be highly active online in order to keep the information flow gushing through.

The Pakistani government has started to take serious notice and incorporate social media into day-to-day tasks. The proliferation of social media as the basic construct for information flow by the government has ramped up its importance for governments around the world. Ever since the genesis of this pandemic, a large amount of time has passed that our government officials and ministers are starting to use social media to connect with their communities in new, open ways.

Read more: Is social media responsible for spread of Coronavirus?

Social media for swift information dissemination

In a recent interview, President Dr Arif Alvi highlighted the problems associated with bandwidth in Pakistan and talked about how he is taking personal interest in creating a draft with the consultation of PTA, finance and tech ministries to decrease the tax rate on internet packages, simultaneously increasing bandwidth capacity so that people can access better quality internet. This improvisation will further help to speed up communication between the people and the government.

One such example of information flow during these days by the federal and provincial government is the Pakistan Corona Statistics Dashboard which contains tabulated statistical updates from the federal and provincial government which are otherwise not generated from a single source in the government. The dashboard was built by National IT Board, run by Shabahat Ali Shah, a California returned Pakistani Tech Entrepreneur.

Government need to hand-pick people or to train individuals who could stand in front and center, to represent and lead the country through an effective use of social media, conveying important messages in a controlled and reassuring way

When Dr Arif Alvi tweeted, “It is not a political issue but a national one. The war hero’s role is yours through your weapons of social media & your phone messages. Don’t stop until we have won,” this shows how active government officials were on social media to help tackle the lockdown and to disseminate information on priority through a medium which is accessible for all.

Government officials more accessible via social media

Use of social media by govt officials, civil servants have helped general public to engage by staying at their homes. Pakistani Civil Servant, DC Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat played a vital role in bringing civil servants on social media. Having the availability of civil servants and government officials at a few clicks helped the general public in engaging in direct dialogue, with a chance to get back instant feedback about the resolution of their complaints.

It was not easy to adapt to advanced technology but the use of social media plays a major rule to debunk fake news and helps in spreading fact-based notices on various social media platforms so that people of the country have access to real news during this time of lockdown.

Read more: Challenges of Imposing Lockdown: DC Islamabad explains

Social media has changed the way governments interact with their people, making government and officials more transparent and accountable. Mostly the officers using social media are using it just for the dissemination of information without engaging with the general public or responding to queries they have.

Unless you engage with your followers, you can never establish a sense of trust with your community. Responding to comments and questions from your community helps them connect with you, along with staying up to date with information, it also gives them the assurance that the ‘Sarkari Babu’  is reachable, and they can send their problems directly to the officials.

With a plethora of people at home having affixed themselves with their screens, even one wrong tweet by an official could stir up pandemonium. The nation looks up to the government not just for direction, but also for valuable information on how to cope with the pandemic. It’s especially important for the public sector to get information throughout the country in a calm, professional manner.

Read more: As Social Media Expands: Pakistan Puts a Leash Around its Neck

This means that the government should be taking extra efforts to not to have overuse of exclamation points or tweets in all-caps. Government need to hand-pick people or to train individuals who could stand in front and centre, to represent and lead the country through effective use of social media, conveying important messages in a controlled and reassuring way.

Fahad Malik is a Digital Media Specialist, and a Data Journalist who is using Digital Media to drive innovation in Pakistan’s news ecosystem. He has worked on projects of peacebuilding, mental health & digital skill development of women in Pakistan.  He tweets at @Fahad4014. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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