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Thursday, February 3, 2011

How social are Swedish regions and local authorities?

10:10:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
At a recent workshop with IT strategists from several Swedish regions and local authorities, we gave a broad introduction to social media and explained typical external and internal use cases. We also used Gartner’s Open Government Maturity Model to help them position themselves and the participants given the task to identify concrete and urgent activities that could help them create business value with the use of social media.

Some of the observations I had made earlier were pretty much confirmed during the workshop, such as the following:

  • Most regions and local authorities are lacking a broad and integrated approach to new digital channels, and social media is shabbily treated as something separate and odd. They are in the beginning of exploring these channels and have yet to grasp the shift in expectations among citizens that such things as social media usage and consumerization of IT give rise to. 
  • If they use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, they mainly for one-way communication and not for an active dialog with citizens. Some of the early adopters, with presence on Facebook and Twitter, have still not figured out the purpose of being there. 
  • Social media initiatives are not anchored in existing organization and processes, but rather isolated phenomena which are dependent the contributions and engagement from enthusiastic individuals.
  • Digital channels in general and social media in particular are still treated as something separate from the daily operations. This is the major obstacle to value-creation, as issues related to privacy and security are be put more in focus than how digital channels actually can be used to improve management and operations to deliver better customer service and increase citizen influence and engagement at lower costs.

Up until now the focus has primarily been on reducing risks by restricting and blocking employee’s use of social media, but that is gradually changing and restrictions are being removed in order allow for exploration and learning. They are just now starting to look at how to create value from social media.

The is obviously a growing external pressure from both citizens and the Swedish government. This also creates an increasing internal pressure and willingness within regions and local authorities to move towards increased transparency and openness towards the citizens, but also to engage with citizens and improve the customer experience. Paradoxically, existing laws in Sweden which have the purpose to protect the integrity of patients have a crippling effect on initiatives in the health care sector, thereby hindering attempts to increase operational efficiency and deliver better customer experiences.

The participants in our workshop concluded that a lot of things can be done internally to improve collaboration and increase knowledge sharing within and among local authorities and regions. There is obviously great potential in increasing internal efficiency and productivity, but local authorities and regions are still externally focused in their use of digital channels and just now trying to understand the changing environment, realizing they need to adjust to it rather than try to regulate and control it.

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