The Use of Social Media by Local Governments: Benefits, Challenges, and Recent Experiences

The Use of Social Media by Local Governments: Benefits, Challenges, and Recent Experiences

Diaz Romero Leocadia (Murcia State University, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4197-4.ch017

Abstract

This chapter describes how social media, if correctly used, can enhance cultural, political, economic and social engagement. They also represent key communication tools for administrators to highlight the principles of openness, transparency, and to promote civic engagement. Nowadays, local governments have launched social media strategies. After reviewing necessary categories such as E-Government and E-Democracy, this chapter explores in what ways the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can benefit governance, and foster transparency, participation. The chapter describes contemporary setbacks and challenges officials at the local level which have been encountered in the implementation and development of social media. Finally, it offers an empirical approach of the utilization of ICTs by the Office of the Mayor of New York City and, therefore, describes the portal NYC.gov.
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1. Contemporary Forms Of Democracy In The Xxist Century

As we have already mentioned, the use of Information and Communication Technologies and Social Media can strengthen political participation and civic engagement, and enhance contemporary forms of democracy that aim to foster representative democracy with the presence of the civil society.

Representative democracy has repeatedly been identified with the notion of democracy itself. The essence of representation resides in the celebration of regular, free, fair elections where political parties compete to be in office. The legitimacy of the system is, thus, grounded on parties and elections.

In Western countries scholars have observed a certain erosion of the representative model: not of democracy itself but of the functioning of representative institutions. Representation has not supervised, restrained and controlled effectively the government (Hirst 2009). This trend does not apply to transitional regimes: they undergo a different path and revolutions have occurred to establish regimes based on electoral democracy –e.g., “the Arab Spring”-.

Key Terms in this Chapter

local government: Sikander is convinced that “local government is an agent of social change”, which cannot be identified with a sovereign government in terms of security, defence, bank rates, taxation, international trade (Sikander, 2015 AU81: The in-text citation "Sikander, 2015" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). Instead, Sikander agrees with Gilchrist that local governments “act as representative bodies, which make the surroundings fit to live in, keep the streets clean, impart education to children, build houses and pave the way to enable the inhabitants to lead a civilized life” ( Gilchrist, 1940 ). Local governance is often associated with the principle of decentralization. Decentralization implies “a transfer of authority to perform some service to the public, from an individual or any agency in central government to some other individual or agency, which is closer to the public to be served”. It normally happens at the territorial level, in order to bring that authority geographically closer but can also take place in a functional way, by transferring authority to an agency that is functionally specialized ( Sidgwick, 1908 ).

E-Democracy: It suggests greater and more active citizen participation enabled by the Internet, mobile communications, and other technologies in today’s representative democracy, as well as through more participatory or direct forms of citizen involvement in addressing public challenges (Clift, 2003 AU78: The in-text citation "Clift, 2003" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). It consists of all sort of electronic means and tools of communication that empower citizens and make politicians accountable for their actions in the public realm. Among other benefits, E-Democracy can increase the transparency of the political process; enhance direct involvement and participation of citizens; and improve the quality of opinion formation by opening new spaces of information and deliberation (Trechsel & Méndez, 2005 AU79: The in-text citation "Trechsel & Méndez, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Digital Revolution: The digital revolution has often been referred to as the third industrial revolution and implies the change from analog mechanical and electronic technology to digital technology, occurring since the 1980s throughout the present day. The digital revolution is both a manifestation and result of the emergence of information communication technologies, and thus, inaugurates the Information Age. This revolution entails mass production and widespread use of digital logic circuits and its derived technologies—that is, the computer, digital cellular phone, and fax machines. The important technological, social, economic, and political consequences brought about explain its revolution-like nature. The information society represents the natural environment of this phenomenon (Diaz Romero, 2014 AU77: The in-text citation "Diaz Romero, 2014" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Representative democracy: Representative Democracy has repeatedly been identified with the notion of democracy itself. The essence of representation resides in the celebration of regular, free, fair elections where political parties compete to be in office. The legitimacy of the system is, thus, grounded on parties and elections (Diaz Romero, 2016 AU82: The in-text citation "Diaz Romero, 2016" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

E-Government: E-Government refers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to support and improve government activity. The Internet, but also ICT applications such as cellular telephone, satellite communication and geographical information systems are the key tools of this type of “digital” governance. To some extent, E-Government has a natural affinity to E-Democracy , since ICT and Social Media are key elements for both of them, as well as the common goal to improve the functioning of democracy (Diaz Romero, 2016 AU80: The in-text citation "Diaz Romero, 2016" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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