Inspire : Public Works Nov Dec 2012
COVER STORY 18 Public Works Professional November-December 2012 these communication channels cannot be ignored. He says guidance is often needed for better understanding of the integration of the social tools that are best suited to local circumstances. "Social media is not a fad," he says. "There are many potential benefts covering a wide range of local government functions and communication activities: from corporate image to event planning, issues management and emergency/crisis management. "The cons, such as risks about negative comments or campaigns against councils, can be managed properly if staff are given the guidance to make strategic decisions. "Unless councils respond by being proactive with social media, they risk being left behind by the community. The next big step is to use social media to increase productivity." Another national survey undertaken by ACELG in 2011 showed that the value of social media was ranked highly in relation to public works information. Chris Champion, CEO of the IPWEA, considers it important to separate social or personal networking from professional networking. The IPWEA has chosen a deliberate strategy of developing a strong professional networking platfor m for its website and communities of practice. "The IPWEA's communities allow more focused discussion on topics of direct interest to public works professionals without being bombarded with recruitment or sales pitches as are often evident on LinkedIn," he says. "On the contrary, we have created an environment where practitioners, consultants, suppliers and contractors alike are all contributing to practical solutions on day-to-day work issues. "The breadth of discussion never ceases to amaze me. Some people are regular contributors and many just follow the discussion and chime in when something grabs their attention. "I often get comment that people enjoy and lear n from just following the discussion. In a way, the discussion is the latest in practice and solutions never seem to be more than a few hours or a day or so away." Champion also notes that the internet is opening up new channels of communication and collaboration. The IPWEA's communities have many inter national participants whose number is rapidly increasing. Experience has shown that problems and solutions are not restricted by state or national boundaries. The IPWEA communities are providing the vehicle for solutions in one country to be applied to a problem or issue in another country. Bateson suggests ACELG and the IPWEA collaborate on a follow-up sur vey to determine the way in which public works professionals are using social media. He says better engagement with citizens opens up so many opportunities to improve ser vices, facilitate more open and responsive government, and foster closer relationships. "If a council applies a methodical strategic approach and resources social media adequately, then almost all potential pitfalls or risks can be avoided or overcome," he adds. "Looking to the future, social media can even play a key role in the shift toward citizen-centric decision-making. Public works professionals, including engineers, have the opportunity to be part of this social media revolution that will assist with their roles and responsibilities," he says. But many groups and councils have not waited for an invitation. More than 30,000 Australian ratepayers are using a free smartphone app called Snap Send Solve to report problems ranging from broken glass in a playground to faulty parking meters and potholes. The free app, created by Melbourne developers, Outware Mobile, is, according to director Danny Gorog, enabling users in electorates around the country to report incidents to council with ease. "If you think about the traditional ways councils have always worked, the details provided by the public are notoriously inaccurate, contacting the council call centre is notoriously laborious and the entire process can be a real turn-off," he says. "Is the app making councils more accountable? Yes! But councils also list the app on their websites and promote it as a valid way to report issues, @ SMARTPHONES BY THE NUMBERS By the end of 2012, it is estimated there will be 12.2 million smartphones in use by Australians. Of those, 51.8% use Android smartphones, such as Samsung, HTC or Motorola models 35.3% use Apple iPhones 7.3% use other smartphone models, such as Blackberry and Nokia models 5.6% use Symbian phones like older Nokias Source: Telsyte, Snakk Media If a council applies a methodical strategic approach and resources social media adequately, then almost all potential pitfalls or risks can be avoided or overcome.
Public Works Sept Oct 2012
Public Works Jan Feb 2013