Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Tweets must flow"

While blocked in Egypt, twitter posted its opinion or position in regard with freedom of expression and its own policy of restriction on use of twitter on its blog. As the title “The Tweets must flow” implies, they are saying the freedom of expression should be protected and at the same time it should carry responsibilities and limits.

Social Media banned in Egypt

Continuing unrest against the Hoshni Mubarak had led to the authorities banning facebook in Egypt. Access to twitter is also getting difficult from Egypt. It looks like social media has been playing a major role in the upraising. However it is interesting to see that Government does not seem to agree that they have banned social media. The traffic in twitter and face book have gone down considerably in the last two weeks. A Blackberry official confirmed that their internet services have been affected.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fine Line between Government Ambassador and Lobbyist

An article in the New York Times yesterday described the work of Adam Sharp--a Twitter employee who spends the majority of his time meeting with Congressmen. Sharp helps Congressmen understand how to utilize Twitter to reach constituents and receive feedback.

Sharp's role raises an interesting question: Is Adam Sharp a lobbyist for Twitter given the frequency of his meeting with Congressmen? Should he be treated as an asset to democracy or as a private interest?

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service makes a distinction between lobbying and advocacy, defining lobbying as "asking policymakers to take a specific position on a specific piece of legislation". Given this definition, Sharp is not 'lobbying' the Congressmen, but his work sets an interesting precedent. If the Twitter employee mentions net neutrality in the meeting, would he be lobbying? At what point should that employee be required to register as a lobbyist?

Twitter has helped further democracy and improve efficiencies for many Congressmen with the help of Sharp. But does Twitter now have an unfair advantage and disproportionate access to Congressmen? Will they in the future?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Republic Day Celebrations


You can see the magnificence of India's Republic Day Celebrations here


My blog

Dear friends,
I invite you to visit my blog at
and share your views.
Pritam Singh

Ines A. Mergel has won the 2010 Best PA Times Article

Prof. Mergel has won the Best PA Time Article Award for 2010.  Her article entitled "Gov 2.0 revisited: Social media strategies in the public sector,” can be found at:

USGS asks citizen scientists "What's happening?"

Yesterday, Kara Capelli, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey, joined my "Government 2.0" at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University via Skype video call. Kara shared her insights on the use of social media applications at USGS and specifically on the very innovative use of their Twitter accounts.

USGS's social media strategy includes the use of Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds and blogs, podcasts, photosharing on Flickr and Facebook accounts.

One account among the long list of social media accounts is especially remarkable: The USGSted account - Twitter Earthquake Detector (TED) - asks so-called "citizen scientists" what is happening in their geographic location. USGS automatically searches tweets for hashtags such as #earthquake and compiles the tweets on a Google Map mashup - geotagging tweets to understand where in the world citizens feel the earth shaking. The large number of tweets then makes it worthwhile to pay attention to specific geographic locations around the world where earthquake activities might happen. One example is the recent earthquake in Pakistan.

At USGS, the tweets are obviously not used as a scientific method - and will certainly never replace science. Instead, they are used as a way to collect citizen feedback, sentiments or indicators of potential damages. Going forward, the tool might have the potential to help emergency responders to find affected citizens, as a method to create social awareness among neighborhood networks, to understand how resilient citizens are or even as a tool for neighborhood responsiveness.

The USGSted account was recently selected as Twitter's only government showcase (URL was removed from Twitter's homepage this week, will update as soon as it is back online).

Additional press coverage:

Government Computer News: Earthquakes are something to tweet about
Business Insider: Twitter-based Earthquake Detection System in Development
Christian Science Monitor: Earthquake alerts: shake, rattle, and Twitter

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Revolution 2.0 Live! The First Real Twitter Revolation is happening!

Succeeding to the Tunisians, the Egyptians are using social media to say NO to President Mubarak. It is happening. Searching Tweets message with hashtags such as #Cairo, #jan25 and #Suez you can see the real-time progress. The newest tweets showed that the Internet is totally down in all of Egypt.

Social Networking, a Powerful Device

This is the century of Information Technology. Last decade has seen unimaginable integration of electronic sciences - computing and telecommunication to be precise. Social networking has been one of the most powerful tools falling in the hands of the masses. It is proving to be of immense use in dispensing knowledge and sharing of news and views. One feels very empowered as a member of a social group. The voice of the common man is getting heard.
Something that started as a plaything among the teenagers has attracted serious attention of all organizations including traditional media. Even if as a compulsion, now, the Governments have started paying attention to what the people are blogging about.
But it is proving to be a double edged sword and any careless handling of this by the concerned can be of serious repercussions. Like the arms race, Governments may soon have to be one up in handling the huge volumes of blogging and social messaging. The States, be they Nations or only local Governments, will have to attend to this sea of information in a skilful way or they may soon find themselves in utter difficulties.
And if you still think I am kidding, google for "what happened in Tunisia" and see the results- what most people feel is that it was a twitter revolution. As if that was not enough- people keep guessing what is behind the events of Egypt.
That is why some Governments have, already, geared up to have this ammunition on their side instead of letting it fall in the hands of the adversaries.
Pritam Singh

Why I took Gov 2.0 course

My first exposure to social media was when I saw my son fiddling with facebook on his computer. I asked him what it was, and he told me that all his friends were there on it and it was a great way to connect with them. I sampled a few messages and all of them looked like teenager inanities with an overload of weird looking fonts conveying personal status and messages. I never imagined that this medium would go beyond teenagers. But then I also joined facebook, because many others like me were also joining. I discovered many of my friends with whom I had lost contact. It was a great feeling to connect with them all over again. I enjoyed facebook, but to me social media remained essentially a social networking tool, nothing more. Its massive power on the political stage was first witnessed after the Mumbai terror attacks.
After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, a massive protest rally took place, where people assembled in large numbers not by the effort of any political party, but by the word of mouth publicity through the social media. Politicians were rattled, as they thought it is only they who could mobilize people for rallies and protest marches. This generated a huge interest in the subject. Social media was a tool for mobilization; a tool for espousing causes; a tool for sharing information; and a tool for networking and much more. Hence I was looking for opportunities to learn more about it. That is why I joined this course. There is lot to learn about this emerging field, and I look forward to the sessions, readings and assignments in this course.

Baltimore Social Media

In the IBM Center for the Business of Government’s report on The Blogging Revolution, David Wyld suggests that social media and Government 2.0 can be an integral piece of citizen engagement. The City of Baltimore recently announced the release of Open Baltimore, an interactive open government portal that is designed to do just that. Baltimore government agencies have been told to provide lists of their data sets within the next 30 days and identify what is currently available to the public.

This process is a progressive first step by a local government to make government more interactive and data more accessible. It was also cost effective. However, the city is still struggling with identifying which information is appropriate to release and which information must remain secure—a tension that will undoubtedly continue. Agencies may also struggle to provide accurate information within the 30-day mandate.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sharing Social Media Responsibility in Government Organizations

As described in a blog on Government Technology recently, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has found an interesting way to ensure that social media content is frequently updated and relevant. The agency rotates the responsibility for their Facebook account among six staffers on a weekly basis.

This model of rotating social media responsibility creates three major advantages:
1. Access to diverse content from across the organization
2. Helps avoid newspaper-like social media posts that are drafted only by the public relations department
3. Social media posts become less routine and burdensome

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the (e)Union 2011: Government 2.0 at its Finest

According to an article in Fastcompany this year's State of the Union address by President Obama will be one of the most wired Presidential speeches ever. The Whitehouse has set up a special site with information on how to access the "Enhanced State of the Union":

1. On Twitter: Reply to @whitehouse using the hashtag #sotu
2. On Facebook: Post your questions to the White House wall
3. On through the webform
Other social media functions include: An iPhone app, YouTube videos and response videos, and a Q&A after the speech with White House senior staff moderated among others by the White House Social Media Director.