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Social Media and Public Sector Policy Dilemmas

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Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)




According to this research, the most significant impediment to government implementation and use of social media is not with the privacy, security, official language policies and legislative frameworks but with the “clay layer” in management and the hierarchical public service culture which has not adapted to the promise of new media to liberate information, foster collaboration and openness and promote organizational change.

Having said that, social media demand a new paradigm regarding the ownership, use and management of information. The specific challenges regarding privacy and official languages can be managed within that new paradigm. The problems faced regarding the issues of information management, privacy and security are new manifestations of old phenomena as there have always been risks of improper disclosure and misuse of government information.

In the view of the researchers, organization change is required to develop a culture of trust and openness that will allow public servants to take advantage of the benefits that social media offer.

Public sector employees fall into three camps on the social media issue and represent all age groups: the zealots, who love social media tools for the experience and opportunity they offer; the collaborators, who see the tools as helping them do their jobs better; and the resisters, who are concerned about the risks associated with government use of social media.

There is a dearth of analytic support, cost/benefit analysis, or measures of success regarding the implementation and use of social media in government. Finally, there is a strong appetite for an ongoing community of practice to discuss shared issues and to develop shared solutions to meet the ongoing opportunities that social media are offering governments within the limits required of public sector organizations.

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  • This project is not available online. Please contact the funded research organization for more information.

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

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