Monday, March 15, 2010

Report: Real (political and government) Leaders Tweet

The Digital Policy Council at Digital Daya has released a thought-provoking report on the incidence of social media use by government leadership around the world, characterised through the use of Twitter, entitled Real Leaders Tweet (PDF)

Considering the 163 countries recognised by the United Nations, the report indicates that 24 (15%) already have leaders or government-sanctioned agencies using Twitter. Of those 21 are considered amongst the most stable regimes in the world - which means their political and governance systems are highly entrenched and self-sustaining, not that they are necessarily democracies.

The report argues that
... democracy is not necessarily a pre-requisite for active use of Twitter. Many leaders heading governments labelled as "non-democratic" employ Twitter to good effect - to engage the people of their countries.

One of the key findings of the report is that "Good Leaders Twitter". This means that in stable societies social media use by government to engage, listen and respond to their citizenry is a positive way to reinforce their state's integrity and ongoing success.

The report also commented that 'fragile' nations - those with a high degree of political instability - are likely to consider social media as a threat to the continued survival of the regimes in question. In these situations social media can become a destabilising force for groups in power as it allows opponents to self-organise and have a greater public voice (for example during the recent Iran election).

From these findings Digital Daya has concluded that social media is a significant means of change for nations, but not a significant means of control. Stable governments of all types that adopt social media will find that their use helps reinforce their legitimacy and improve citizen engagement, whereas fragile states will often discover that the opposite is true.

While it could be debatable whether Twitter is the appropriate social media tool to use for this type of analysis, the report still raises intriguing questions for government decision-makers across the globe.

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