Tag Archives: Gov 2.0

Disaster 2.0 in Australia

Post By: Kim Stephens

The Australian Government 2.0 Task Force was formed back in 2009 in order to determine how best to leverage public sector information and online engagement. They went through a process similar to what the Obama administration went through upon taking office in 2008.

But what I found most interesting, not surprisingly, was the Emergency 2.0 component. For one, I love that a quote from Brian Humphrey of LAFD was displayed promently on the blog: “We can no longer afford to work at the speed of government…we have responsibilities to the public to move the information as quickly as possible…so that they can make key decisions.

With regard to emergency managment they had some key findings. I think almost every one of these could apply here in the U.S. today, April 2011:

  • The key themes… for all stakeholders are trust, transparency and timeliness
  • Citizens are willing to trade-off reliability and accuracy for timeliness in certain circumstances, (emphasis added) and will resort to other information sources such as social media if the official authorities cannot provide timely information.
  • EM2 services need to:
    • make use of multiple channels but with consistent messages
    • be interactive and responsive
    • be ‘relevant to me’ (ie personalised)
  • For Agencies, there are a number of factors to balance:
    • Quality vs timeliness of information
    • Control vs. (perceived) chaos
    • All Hazards and PPRR
  • From a technology viewpoint, applications and services need to be:
    • standards-based to enable aggregation and mash-ups
    • low-tech & robust
    • fast-evolving (e.g. Twitter Geo-API)

Unsurprisingly, many of the crowdsourced recommendations (and those that received the most votes in our idea register) echo common themes that have been seen in Government 2.0 discussions, such as:

  • Creating open access to emergency data, to ensure others can mashup and contribute to useful services.
  • Ensuring useful government data is subscribed (eg RSS) so citizens can be kept up to date
  • Increasing executive awareness and buy-in (emphasis added)
  • Building audience literacy.

Since the massive flooding event in Australia they continue to build on these recommendations. Of course, the Queensland Police Service Media Department (as I’ve documented here) used social media with great success. But during the symposium “Social Media in Times of Crisis,” reported on by Stephen Collins of Acid Labs blog, the local governments are also looking to provide new ways for citizens to engage and contribute. This includes an emergency 2.0 wiki and the use of Ushahidi. Mr. Collins described Ipswich City Council’s concept for the emergency 2.0 wiki:

  • the wiki is under development and is intended for use by the public, responders and government as a light weight, agile way to improve informa­tion with respect to emergency and disaster management with out the need to process emergent matters and best practice through a lengthy lessons learned process that fails to adapt to changing situations and new information;
  • the wiki, with an initial focus on Queensland services, will provide “trusted, locally sourced information allowing communities to self-​​mobilise, develop resilience and lever age social capital”;
  • one of the drivers for the wiki was the Social Media for Emergency Manage­ment project that emerged from the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

Mr. Collins concludes his blog summary of the event lamenting that the government isn’t further along with its ability to embrace or leverage fairly mature technologies. Honestly, however, I think they might be much further along than we are. Read his entire post, it’s quite interesting.

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Is Public Participation in Emergency Management a Problem or a Solution?

Post by: Kim Stephens

The use of social media and Gov 2.0 by government agencies should be viewed as not only a new means of informing the public, but also as an opportunity for the public to participate  in the decision-making process.  In the emergency management field, these new technologies have presented opportunities for direct public participation during crises, notably with information curation, collation, and distribution.  In the U.S. we saw spontaneous applications in Boulder, CO a few months ago in connection with local wildfires that threatened the urban dwellers.

The key question is: when it comes to actually influencing government decision-making, are citizens able to leverage social media in order to have an impact? As I have mentioned before, after the Deep WaterHorizon Oil Spill Admiral Thad Allen said “We all have to understand that there will never again be a major event in this country that won’t involve public participation. And the public participation will happen whether it’s managed or not.”

Ladder of Participation by: Sherri Arnstein

Ladder of Participation: By Sherry Arnstein

I noticed two points of view: those who see public participation as a problem to be solved and those who view this new form of participation as an opportunity to be seized. I commented on this point to my esteemed colleague Claire B. Rubin who quickly corrected me: She indicated that this issue did not just arise with the creation of social media but goes back many decades.  She pointed me to an article dated 1969: “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” by Sherry R. Arnstein. Claire states: “I think there are at least two aspects worth thinking about:  (1.) attitudes toward citizens and their involvement and (2.) organizational culture.”  See the ladder diagram, which essentially is a continuum of power sharing (or not.)

Claire indicated that “…the fundamental issue is how open and collaborative an organization wants to be.  When it is a public agency you would expect it to both serve and respect the views/needs of its citizens. But when the culture is command and control — military, fire, police – their training and orientation is to keep things close to the vest and not open up for collaboration.”

With regard to the second point about organizational culture, Bill Brantley, in the post, “Without Engagement Gov. 2.0 Will Fail” notices some of the same issues:  “For people who are on the cutting edge of the Gov 2.0 movement, we often forget that a majority of government employees are still not enthusiastic about the potential of the new social networking technologies in their workplace. Now many of these folks are using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. to keep up with their family and friends but haven’t made that conceptual leap from using these tools at their job.” Part of the reason lies in concerns over security. Two reports out earlier this year, one conducted by Hewlett Packard and the other by the National Association of State CIOs Social Media Working group (NASCIO), had large number of respondents indicating that security concerns were a barrier to Gov 2.0 adoption.

So how high have we climbed up that ladder? It is interesting to note that some of us seem to be stuck on the third rung: “informing”.  Ms. Arnstein made an observation that could have been written today: …too frequently the emphasis is placed on a one-way flow of information-from official to citizens-with no channel provided for feedback and no power for negotiation. Under these conditions, particularly when information is provided at a late stage in planning, people have little opportunity to influence the program designed ‘for their benefit’.”

Recent disaster experiences in the U.S. demonstrate that the public is demanding more control. While the new information technologies make it easier to keep the public informed, the public now has an expectation that you are listening through this new “feedback” loop; that responsible agencies are paying attention to them; and answers will be provided. The last two items in this sequence are new and important to consider.  During the BP Gulf Oil Spill an open call for solutions was not necessarily proffered, but 123,000 suggestions were received nonetheless, according to this USA Today article. Gerald Baron issues a warning to emergency managers in this blog post to plan ahead for this new form of citizen engagement:

So you are involved as Incident Commander or Public Information Officer  for a large disaster or crisis, take heed of these new expectations. As an event grows in scope and media attention, it may be  filled with challenges. What will the interested public do? We know now that they will come to you by phone, email, web form, text message, social media sites and every conceivable way and they will say: “I have an idea and you should pay attention to it.” Then the media will be there and the idea person will say: “I gave them a dynamite idea, it is certain to solve their big problem, but no one even got back to me to say they are paying attention. These people don’t care about solving this problem.” Do you think that won’t happen to you? Do you think that will only happen to companies? Not a chance.