Tuesday, December 2, 2014

e-municipality Initiatives in Turkey

e-municipality essentially is the utilization of information and communication technologies to provide efficient, citizen oriented, transparent, accountable and affordable local services. e-municipality also strength communication between the local administration and local communities, increase participation and local democracy, and improve municipalities’ decision making process with feedback. Moreover, e-municipality brings fast, qualified, and easy accessible services for citizens. 

Municipalities in Turkey’s local governance system have a lot of responsibilities and function to meet the needs in local level. In recent years, intensive urbanization process have put municipalities under
meeting new services and demands. Traditional ways of rendering local services has not been enable municipalities to do their whole duties anymore. On the other hand, fast developments in information and communication technologies provide new opportunities for local governments to manage their cities and perform their functions their local services in more effective, cheaper, transparent and accountable way than traditional ways.

A great majority of municipalities in Turkey have gone online over the last decade. They owned official websites. Initially most of these municipality website aimed to provide information about the works, organizational structure and mayor but not e-government services. However, there is a rising trend in transformation from website municipality to e-municipality. On the other hand, e-municipality initiatives develops in an uncoordinated and irrelevant way from each other. They have big differences in website contents, e-services, and e-government perspectives.

Actually Turkey has conducted an e-transformation project since 2003 in order to coordinate e-government policies and services in a central coordination which is mentioned in blogpost “A Brief History and Milestones of E-Government in Turkey” (Hayalgolu, 2014)[1]. However, municipalities’ e-government efforts still are far away from this central e-transformation initiative. So far, 95 municipalities and 2 local administration in 37 cities of Turkey give e-services through e-government gateway which is central and official e-government portal of Turkey. Moreover, Turkey hasn’t prepared regulations, guidelines or a national strategy for about how municipalities utilize ICTs for e-government services.  
Türkiye Haritası
Turkey's e-municipality maps (red dots shows cities with e-municipality services)
Source: e-government gateway of Turkey.

Today smart city concept is discussed throughout the world’s developed cities. Utilization of digital technology is key to transition to smart city concept especially in transportation, energy, health care, water and waste. Current e-municipality services will form a basis for future smart cities. Turkey should develop a comprehensive strategy for e-municipality initiatives and catch the new intelligent city wave. 

 [1] http://gov20class.blogspot.com/

Why governments have not much to loose, but a lot to win on Social Media

While it is obvious that governments are increasingly making use of Social Media, this does not automatically imply that they are doing it in the right way. Just having a Facebook or Twitter account does not mean to be able to claim the label "E-Government" or any other related term.

According to Prof. Mergel, the strategies that best describe how governments make use of Social Media are a (1) Push Strategy, (2) Pull Strategy or (3) Networking Strategy (see Gov 2.0 Revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector). In my opinion, those three dimensions cover this topic in a very good way. So what do they mean?

The (1) Push Strategy can be best described as a street which only leads into one direction. Government agencies can send out any message, but citizens are not able or allowed to give any kind of feedback or interaction. Obviously, this might have some advantages to government officials. Lower costs, more control and no risk of any bad publicity. People might have a look once or even twice, but you will never see most of them again. Why should they? One reason could be that those messages are supposed to be exclusive to this specific channel. Hence, it depends on the mission and the goals.

The (2) Pull Strategy is supposed to function like a magnet. Social Media can be a tool, which pulls interested readers to where the actual source should be (from the perspective of those using this strategy): the main website. While this strategy involves actual interaction with the audience, the whole purpose is still to have all the information condensed in one place and to have control over it. For people that only want to consume this information in one-direction without the need to interact, this might be working for some cases.

Finally, the (3) Networking Strategy is the approach which removes the old-fashioned mindset of hierarchical structures. This implies that there is neither a one-way street, nor a two-way street, nor a magnet. It is a large community on one platform as a form of a web, which connects everyone to each other and gives everyone the same rights. Therefore, it can have benefits for all the participants in terms of information sharing, real time feedback and reaching to (but possibly also influencing in a negative way) a big audience in a vey short time.

In my opinion, government agencies of course have to first determine which goals they have before they think about how to get there. But in a world which is increasingly connecting at such a high pace, one big danger might be one that most government officials don't even think of: Being left out. Although this might sound provocative to imagine how governments are only a small player on the playfield of the Internet, but if there is an information vacuum then it can be filled out. And this does not necessarily have to be the almighty government. The question is then, who will take this role? And I doubt that this is always someone who's first mission is to serve the people for a good purpose (assuming this is the goal of a government of course). Bearing this in mind, I think governments should take the chance and be more brave on Social Media. There is not much to loose, but a lot to win...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Did Social Media Really Impact the Indian Elections(Parliamentary election-2104)?

In the run up to the 15th Lok Sabha elections, a lot of attention was paid to conversations on social media, measuring which politicians were trending in search volume and counting retweets and followers. The first-time voters, many of whom form part of the 'connected' generation - numbered around 150 million this year, and most parties took steps to reach out to voters online and on social media.

Facebook, for instance, states that Narendra Modi's fan base grew by 14.86 percent between April 7 and May 12, the duration of the elections. Aam Adami Party (AAP) convenor Mr Arvind Kejriwal 's count increased by 8.16 percent during the same time. Also, according to Facebook, between the day the elections were announced and May 16, the counting day, 29 million people made 227 million poll-related interactions (posts, comments, shares, and likes), with 13 million people on Facebook posting 75 million updates related to Narendra Modi.

While there was some debate before the elections on whether or not there was an actual 'Modi wave', online at least, it certainly seemed to be the case, with search trends and Facebook and Twitter numbers shown definite interest in both the BJP and Modi. This was borne out in the election results, with the BJP sweeping the polls.

The website of the Election Commission of India shows that the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) won a vote share of 17,16,57,549 votes which accounted to 31 percent of the total votes given. The Congress came in second with 10,69,38,242 votes that accounted for 19.3 percent of the total votes, while the Aam Aadmi Party, which was second only to the BJP in terms of online trends, got 1,13,25,635 - or just about 2 percent - votes. So why the big difference between AAP's virtual world interested and real world performance?

Dr. Ranjit Nair, CEO of Germin8, a company that works on big data analysis, says, "If you see it broadly, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had a fantastic outreach to people, but they failed in their messaging strategy, the BJP on the other hand did not have much of an outreach earlier on (it changed in the latter months) but their message was one that the people wanted to hear, whilst the Congress woke up to the impact of social media messaging just too late."

Going further he also mentions that the impact was felt more on the first-time voters, who wanted to hear a positive message. For instance the AAP, he mentions, spoke about corruption and the problems plaguing the country, but never offered any hope in the form of bringing about a change. "The BJP on the other hand offered the hope which people desperately wanted," Nair says. "The sad part with the Congress was that they really didn't have any story to tell or any message to give. This impacted the decision of the first time voter a lot."

"It's not that that first time voters were brainwashed by the message that the BJP gave, " he clarifies. " It was just that people wanted to hear positivity and also hope for a change, which they got to hear."

Data released by Twitter from January 1 till May 12 shows the graph for the political parties and the rise and fall in the number of tweets. Keeping in sync with real time happenings, the popularity of the BJP soared slowly with the last months leading to the elections showing a huge spike, whilst AAP and Congress were far behind.

SocialBakers, a company that offers tools for monitoring and analysing social media, offers a detailed breakdown of the performance of the main political parties, including the percentage of shares, comments and likes that the posts by the parties and politicians generated.

The trends observed for the time period of April 19 to May 18 show how the popularity of the BJP surged, with Modi-related interactions hitting a record of over 15 lakhs, Kejriwal(AAP) at just over a lakh and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress at just 19,500. When you look at the performance of these individuals and their parties in the elections, it's easy to infer a relation between social media and actual results.

This is made clearer when you consider the huge amount of activity on Twitter on the counting day - with 2.003 million tweets related to the election in a single day. Rishi Jaitly, Twitter India Market Director says, "Similarly to the Obama campaign, everyone knew that this Lok Sabha election would also be influenced by social media, particularly with over 150 million first-time voters between the age of 18-23 years. Everyone could see Tweets from the main parties, politicians and voters on their mobile devices, on their TV screens or in their daily news reports, or follow key political and media accounts via a missed call to consume their tweets as text messages."

Nair makes another point about the elections. He says that while the 2014 elections saw a glimpse of social media being used, it will be the 2019 elections where its power will be fully utilised. "Five years down the line, political parties, will have fully understood the importance of reaching out to the people in urban and rural India," he says. "Not only that it will also encourage more and more people to come out and volunteer in all these areas. As of now it was more of the urban educated youth that did the volunteering. By then it will be more inclusive."
Source http://gadgets.ndtv.com/social-networking/features/did-social-media-really-impact-the-indian-elections-527425