5 ways government social media matters to citizens

An important role of any technology journalist’s role in the 21st century is to explain how the broader trends that are changing technology, government and civic society relate to average citizens. Some peope call this broader trend towards smarter, more agile government that leverage technology “Gov 2.0.” If you follow Mashable, you might have read about the ways that social media promotes good health or how government works better with social media. The folllowing stories have little to with technology buzzwords and everything to do with impact. Following are five stories about government 2.0 that matter to citizens, with issues that literally come home to everyone.

1) The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched a public complaints database at SaferProducts.gov. You could think of it as a Yelp for government, or simply as a place where consumers could go to see what was safe. Add that to the mobile recalls application that people can already use to see whether a product has been recalled.

2) New traceability rules for food safety, resulting from a new law that the President signed earlier this month. These rules will give consumers new insight into where food is from and whether it’s been recalled. And yes, there’s an app for that: a California-based company is making stickers that consumers can use their smartphones to scan for more information.

3) The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will use technology to listen to citizens online to detect fraud. If you haven’t heard, DC has a new startup agency. That hasn’t happened in a long time. Your could think of it as Mint.gov mashed up with HealthCare.gov. The CFPB plans to use technology in a number of unprecedented ways for fraud detection, including crowdsourcing consumer complaints and trends analysis. Given how much financial fraud has affected citizens in recent years,and how much of the anger that the public holds for the bailouts of banks remains, whether this agency leveraging technology well will matter to many citizens.

4) Social data and geospatial mapping join the crisis response toolset. Historic floods in Australia caused serious damage and deaths. Government workers used next-generation technology that pulled in social media in Australia and mapped the instances using geospatial tools so that first responders could help citizens faster, more efficiently and more effectively. It’s an excellent example of how an enterprise software provider (ESRI) partnered with an open source platform (Ushahidi) to help government workers use social media to help people.

5) New geolocation app connects first responders to heart attack victims.The average citizen will never need to know what Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0 means. Tens of thousands, however, will have heart attacks every year. With a new geolocation mobile application that connects citizen first responders to heart attack victims, connected citizens trained in CPR now have a new tool to help them save lives.

Better access to information about food safety, product recalls and financial fraud will help citizens around the country. Improvements to the ability of government workers to direct help in a disastrous flood or for citizens to receive immediate help from a trained first responder in an emergency are important developments. As 2011 takes shape, the need for governmet to use social media well has become more important than ever.

 

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