Saturday, December 22, 2012

Use of social media for information purposes by Government agencies in developing countries

Just reporting based on readings of two different articles about how state agencies in developing countries are beginning to take note of the useful informational purposes of social media sites such as Facebook. While these stories have been reported are not quite fresh, they do represent important trends that are relevant evidences to my viewpoint about how social media today needs to be regarded as not only a social space, but also as information sources.

In one article, the head of the Jamaican police has encouraged his officers to make use of Facebook to check out those reporting crimes, as well as those implicated in such reports ("Commish suggests", 2012). It seems as if the Jamaican police is just catching on to the intelligence gathering using social networks. However, it fundamentally points to the issue that professionals in some industries, such as security, are also utilising information from social media for work purposes.

In another part of the world, the electoral commission for Ghana, faced with a downed website, decided to turn to Facebook to disseminate Ghana's election results (Vota, 2012). Apparently it was a first for such an critical government document/decision or official document to be released solely via the social media before its official website. Put into context,  it is reported that 70% of the online population of Ghana on Facebook (, 2012), which means that 7 out of 10 of the online Ghanaian population would be able to access such results online, making it indeed a good venue to post the results.

This event continues to show that social media now becoming place to disseminate government information. Those interested in e-governance and e-government information will therefore now need to consider social media as a place to access and provide access to such information. It is also possible though that those who are not members of popular social media sites may find themselves excluded from publicly available knowledge, which may be of major concern if government agencies choose to only disseminate information via popular social media sites and not through other channels.

Both stories indicate that social media is fast becoming not only spaces where social interaction takes place, but also spaces providing information for officials as well as spaces for disseminating information. In short, social media are in fact functioning as information sources. This now presents library and information science with the challenge of now defining and accounting for social media as information sources, and including them within their official categories. This, I have presented on an earlier occasion is problematic, as social media possess several characteristics that pose challenges for our current information source categorizations (see post on Categorizing blogs as information sources).


Commish suggests cops use social networks in criminal probes (2012, October 12). Jamaica Gleaner Retrieved from … (2012). Ghana Facebook Statistics Retrieved from

Vota, Wayan (2012, December 11). Did you know the Facebook tipping point happened in Ghana on Sunday? Retrieved from …

1 comment:

  1. Apparently, the Jamaican police are not the only one to catch up:

    "In addition senior US officers believe there is now an expectation among LA citizens that they can use mobile devices and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to interact with the police."

    + "In the riots which started in London in August 2011 Mr Godwin said social media was a significant factor in the spread of disorder and the need for police to monitor it became even more apparent."

    "Mr Godwin, who was acting commissioner of the Met during the riots of last year, believed that many UK police forces were still playing “catch up” in their use of social media."'Remains-Under-Exploited'_56259.html