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Citizen Voices

How Govt Officials Can Use Social Media To Restore Public Trust

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Fahad Malik highlights the role of social media in effective engagement between government officials and the public amid a lockdown. He also argues that such a strategy can curb the flow of fake news.

As the entire country is pinned down into submission by the unbreakable shackles of the current lockdown, everyone is forced to form an actual global village online. With almost the whole nation locked inside at the mercy of the virus, it has now become somewhat of a mandatory duty for our government officials and bureaucrats to be highly active online in order to keep the information flow gushing through.

The Pakistani government has started to take serious notice and incorporate social media into day-to-day tasks. The proliferation of social media as the basic construct for information flow by the government has ramped up its importance for governments around the world. Ever since the start of this pandemic, a large amount of time has passed that our government officials and ministers are starting to use social media to connect with their communities in new, open ways.

In a recent interview, President Dr Arif Alvi highlighted the problems associated with bandwidth in Pakistan and talked about how he is taking a personal interest in creating a draft with the consultation of PTA, finance, and tech ministries to decrease the tax rate on internet packages and simultaneously increasing bandwidth capacity.

This improvisation will further help to speed up communication between the people and the government. One such example of information flow during these days by the federal and provincial government is the Pakistan Corona Statistics Dashboard which contains tabulated statistical updates from the federal and provincial government which are otherwise not generated from a single source in the government.

The dashboard was built by National IT Board, run by Shahbahat Ali Shah, a California-returned Pakistani Tech Entrepreneur.

When Dr Arif Alvi tweeted, “It is not a political issue but a national one. The war hero’s role is yours through your weapons of social media & your phone messages. Don’t stop until we have won.”  The statement shows how active government officials were on social media to help tackle the lockdown and to disseminate information on priority through a medium that is accessible for [almost] all.

The use of social media by officials, civil servants has helped the general public to engage by staying at their homes. DC Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat played a vital role in bringing civil servants on social media. Having the availability of civil servants and government officials at a few clicks helped the general public in engaging in direct dialogue, with a chance to get back instant feedback about the resolution of their complaints. It was not easy to adapt an advancing technology but the use of social media played a major rule to debunk fake news and help in spreading fact-based notices on various social media platforms so that people of the country have access to the news during this time of lockdown.

Social media has changed the way governments interact with their people, making government and officials more transparent and accountable. Mostly the officers using social media are using it just for the dissemination of information without engaging with the general public or responding to queries they have. Unless you engage with your followers, you can never establish a sense of trust with your community. Responding to comments and questions from your community helps them in connecting with you; it also gives them the strength that the ‘Sarkari Babu’ is reachable, and they can send their problems directly to the officials.

With people having glued themselves to their mobile screens, even one wrong tweet by an official could stir up pandemonium. The nation looks up to the government not just for direction, but also for valuable information on how to cope with the pandemic. It’s especially important for the public sector to get information throughout the country in a calm, professional manner.

This means that the government is taking extra efforts to not to have overuse of exclamation points or tweets in all-caps. The government needs to hand-pick people or to train individuals who could stand in front and center, to represent and lead the country through effective use of social media, conveying important messages in a controlled and reassuring way.

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