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10.06.2015
Overall, 51% of employees reported that their work group had implemented some form of innovation in the 12 months before the Micro-Agency Snapshot.
While innovation can have both positive and negative effects the majority of respondents reported that their most significant innovation had been beneficial to their workplaces (see Figure 22). The most commonly reported benefits were to the quality of work produced, improved client access to information and streamlined administration. Despite the success of micro-agency employees in introducing new practices, 51% still believe there are barriers to innovation in their agencies. Results from the Micro-Agency Snapshot suggest that all 13 agencies use social media for business purposes.
The use of social media is a complex issue in a large organisation and one way this is addressed is by providing guidance to employees regarding the appropriate business and personal uses of social media tools. Results from this section are quite favourable for the micro-agencies, with employees reporting they are able to introduce new practices which improve business practices despite the presence of some obstacles.
A response rate of 62% is a good result for Micro-Agency Snapshot and suggests that a high degree of confidence can be placed in the results. The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is a central agency within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. The Department of Internal Affairs has an all-of-government strategic leadership role for information communications technology. One of the Department's approaches to building capability is through releasing all-of-government guidance and providing advice on the best online practices. With increasing expectations about the quality and effectiveness of online service delivery, the Department has improved and extended the resources it provides to entities. The guidance is intended to encourage best practice in social media use by government agencies, provide useful templates and tools for planning, and give an overview of the strengths, weaknesses, benefits, and risks of this important and rapidly growing medium. Hands-on Toolbox – aimed at providing tools (such as draft policies) to help practitioners set up social media. How to Handle a Mishap – aimed at advising entities on how to deal with potential issues arising from social media use, for example, dealing with abuse. Some of the public entities we spoke to were using the guidance to improve their social media capability. Some entities thought the guidance was more helpful for organisations starting their social media use, and of less value to more experienced users of social media. Our senior management survey asked a question about the level of awareness of the Department's social media guidance. Before we carried out our survey, some entities told us that they thought the Department had not promoted the guidance well enough. In our survey, we also asked senior managers about their opinion of the effectiveness of the Department's leadership of social media throughout the public sector. The results suggest that more visible leadership is needed, which could encourage more widespread and effective use of social media in the public sector. Under the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government Official Information Management Act 1987, official information requests can be made through any communications channel. Therefore, public entities must respond to official information requests made through social media if they have a social media account. Figure 11 sets out some information from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner about the use of social media.
Social media is about interaction so you need to think about how that interaction will take place. One of social media's key strengths is its ability to reach people directly and to talk with them, not at them. If you have a complaints function, what would happen if someone tried to lodge a complaint with you on (for example) your Facebook page – they'd be sharing their own personal information, and potentially other people's. Using social media means you get information about the people who interact with your accounts. Listening is a key part of using social media, so entities need to listen to what people are saying about them and to them. People can choose to share information with entities through their posts, but their social media profile also holds personal information. Searching through the personal profiles of people who "liked" the entity's page, or who follow the entity's Twitter account, to try and establish demographics could be an issue. Develop and publish a privacy policy for their account, and ensure that it is implemented as intended.


Many social media sites require users to accept terms and conditions under which they are required to indemnify the site owner against improper use of the site (such as posting material that is defamatory or infringes privacy laws). The social media guidance produced by the Department of Internal Affairs states that indemnities should be granted by an entity's chief executive or their expressly nominated delegate. Social media can act as a monitoring tool that can help transit agencies improve how their systems run and even increase trust between passengers and agencies. San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit has more than 80,000 followers on Twitter and receives 200 to 300 messages daily.
Editor's note: In this five-part series, Government Technology examines the present impact of technology on transit systems and what that can mean for the future of urban transportation. Traditionally, connecting with riders hasn’t been a top priority for transit agencies.
But thanks to social media, agencies now have an opportunity to connect with their customers, putting a personal face on what appears to be a faceless bureaucracy. In 2012, the Transportation Research Board surveyed transit agencies about their social media practices. According to a 2012 report issued by the Transportation Research Board, the reasons transit agencies use social media fall into five broad categories: timely updates, public information, citizen engagement, employee recognition and entertainment. Keeping management informed about serious issues that bubble up through social media chatter is important. But elevating social media from an interactive communications tool to a strategic asset that can make transit agencies more nimble, service-oriented and able to perform better overall, isn’t without some pitfalls. Social media and Gov 2.0 herald a fundamental shift in the relationship between citizens and government, to the benefit of both.
The APS’ Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration emphasises its importance in meeting future challenges and stresses the need for agencies to develop a culture of innovation. These data would suggest that innovation in Micro-agencies is primarily an internally driven activity with most ideas for innovation coming from other workgroup members or agency senior leaders. By contrast, approximately half of respondents believed the innovation reduced costs for the agency. As Figure 23 shows, the biggest perceived barrier was budget restrictions, closely followed by a perceived lack of support from managers and a perceived unwillingness on the part of managers to take risks.
Table 10 shows the percentage of employees who reported using social media and for what purpose they used social media. Table 11 shows the numbers of micro-agency respondents who have received guidance on ethical use of social media tools from their agency; only one-third of all respondents have access to guidance on the ethical use of social media for work purposes. Figure 24 shows those employees who use social media for work broken down by whether they had access to guidance on its appropriate use. While all agencies appear to be adopting social media tools such as Twitter, views on the their effectiveness are mixed and access to guidance on the appropriate use of these is limited with only just over half users having received such guidance. The Snapshot identified both organisational strengths and potential weaknesses for the agencies.
In late 2011, the Department issued guidance that aims to help organisations plan and implement social media. It also provides an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the different types of social media. It provides information on, for example, resourcing, performance metrics, and realised benefits. The high-level guidance document is intended to be useful to managers and leadership teams, so we were interested in the level of awareness. In our view, there is scope to increase the level of awareness of the guidance among senior managers in the public sector. Figure 10 shows that 13% of respondents thought that the Department provided effective leadership of social media. A request for official information made through Facebook should be treated in the same way as a request made in an email or by letter. However, eligibility might not always be clear from, for example, a Tweet or Facebook post. For example, there might be privacy issues or physical limitations, such as character limits.
Staff need to know what is acceptable and what is not, and have the authority to deal with problems quickly. To collect detailed analytical data, entities should inform social media users of their intention to collect this.


Terms and conditions on Internet sites are generally offered on a "take it or leave it" basis. To find out what riders thought of transit service, agencies used periodic surveys to gauge performance, interest in new transit projects and to monitor conditions. Although industry experts believe having a social media policy is critical, only one in four transit properties participating in the survey had such guidance in place. Industry experts consistently emphasized the vulnerability of social media applications to security threats, including viruses and malware. Though federal agencies are required to conform to Section 508 accessibility guidelines for their Web applications, some analysts argue that these rules don’t apply to government use of privately owned social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The characteristics of social media users are not yet well documented and questions remain about whether social media platforms can bridge the digital divide, or the perceived gap between people who have access to information technology and those who do not. Despite the growth in mobile applications and traveler and citizen information services, only a few responding agencies reported integrating social media with these programs.
Industry experts anticipate growth in several areas, including location-based technology and social-buying services.
New Jersey Transit has more than 70,000 Twitter followers and another 46,000 likes on Facebook. The department aggregates messages from riders that deal with bigger topics and they get elevated to proper management, according to Melissa Gordon, a communications representative with the agency.
It’s also possible that data from social media can be of strategic value to transit agencies that strive to be more customer-focused. Those drawbacks range from legal concerns over records retention to a lack of resources to train staff on using social tools in more sophisticated ways. The growth in technology, particularly in areas such as social media and online service delivery, has also provided a diverse range of new ways for the APS to interact with stakeholders and clients. While three-quarters of the innovations introduced had an effect on internal business processes, approximately half reported that the innovation affected outward looking practices including service delivery and communication with stakeholders. It also shows the percentage of users who felt that social media tools helped them do their job more effectively.
Their functions are set out in sections 41(1) and 50(1), respectively, of the Public Service Act 1999. In these instances, the entity should ask the requester for a postal or email address that it can use to deliver the information. Without close moderation, the entity may not respond quickly enough for your audience or to manage your risks. This means there is little (if any) opportunity for users to negotiate the scope of indemnity provisions. The research identified best practices as well as barriers and concerns about using social media in transit. More research could identify elements of a social media policy that are relevant to public transit agencies.
While these metrics can give a good overview of activity, they don’t provide the information agencies may need to better understand the effectiveness of their social media activities. Additional research could help determine whether social platforms leave transit agencies especially vulnerable to cyberthreats and, if so, recommend appropriate actions. Additional research could help organizations identify features to improve the accessibility of social media sites and contribute to the debate about how federal accessibility rules apply to social media. Additional research could quantify the potential for better coordinating social media with other platforms for providing agency information. Only a small proportion of respondents had used these tools and levels of satisfaction with them could best be considered mixed. Agreeing to indemnify someone can be risky – depending on the context and the wording of the indemnity agreement, the liability that an entity agrees to could be unlimited. Additional research could provide transit agencies with the tools for estimating the costs and benefits of social media, perhaps by including sample metrics or performance indicators drawn from other industries.
San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit has more than 80,000 followers on Twitter and receives 200 to 300 messages daily. Also, social media, with its anonymous participation, has been shown to invite excessively critical posts.



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