Jonathan Werran 18 September 2013

Study social media to improve local services, A4UE advises

Local authorities and Whitehall departments should analyse social media to develop policies and be more responsive in delivering public services, a top research network has advised.

A report by the Alliance for Useful Evidence issued today argues a more sophisticated approach to exploiting data produced by social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter would help develop greater insights and serve as a critical voice for policymakers when traditional warning systems fail.

‘Social media presents us with the chance to develop broader, more nuanced and more up to date social and economic indicators,’ said Jonathan Breckon, who is manager for the Alliance for Useful Evidence – an open-access network of more than 1,400 individuals drawn from government, business and academia.

smartphoneThe Alliance for Useful Evidence said better awareness of social media could help develop greater insight.

‘In turn these could enable more effective policy development and more responsive public service delivery sensitive to the needs of users, particularly at a local level,’ he said.

However, the report authors warn the exploitation of social media to improve public services and inform policy-making would create problems in relation to privacy, and urge a government review of public policy on data to forestall a potential backlash and build public trust.

Various examples of the successful use of social media to shape policy and service delivery are cited in the report, including FixMyTransport which allows the public to readily report transport failure to the operator responsible and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust’s adoption of such channels among tenants to boost community cohesion.

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