Weighing the pros and cons of social media


  • Technology
  • Wednesday, 31 Mar 2010

PETALING JAYA: Social media use in government in this country is growing but has yet to reach the level it has in the United States, said Tony Pua, Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara.

“Social media here isn’t there yet (as an accurate tool for gauging mass public opinion). However, this will change over time, maybe three to five years down the road,” he said.

Member of Parliament for Rembau and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said social media gives the Government the opportunity now to start interacting with a portion of its citizens, and that the group is growing in numbers.

“I am encouraging Umno Youth members to be active on Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “Also, social media helps humanise politicians in the eyes of the public.”

Kam Raslan, writer and director, hoped social media would not be overhyped. It’s a tool, not a magic bullet, he said.

It has been bandied about that a million Malaysians are on Twitter, the microblogging site, and about four million are on Facebook. Many, however, believe the Twitter number is much lower, but an accurate count hasn’t been done yet.

Khairy, Pua and Kam were participating in a panel discussion on Government 2.0 — Government in the age of social media, at the Menara Star here yesterday evening.

The event was organised by the Social Media Club of Kuala Lumpur (SMCKL).

Stateside

Also on the panel was US Embassy press attache Tina Malone. She began the discussion by sharing how the US Government has embraced social media, an initiative spearheaded by the Obama administration.

She said one of the most successful examples of “Government 2.0” in the United States is GovLoop.com. This is an online platform created by and for that country’s government employees, and brings together the more than 16,500 members of its public service community.

The panel then explored the potential of social media to help improve citizen-government ties in this country, and the challenges. The session was moderated by The Star digital news editor A. Asohan.

The event was hosted by The Star Online and sponsored by SRI, a clean technology company using social media, and Integricity an interactive agency.

Chia Kok Peng, senior manager of content and services at ruumzNation Sdn Bhd — which operates the ruumz.com social networking site — found the two-hour session thought provoking.

He said he enjoyed hearing the different opinions and perspectives from such a varied group of speakers and attendees.

Another attendee was Alan Shan, director of special projects for Arcis Communications Sdn Bhd, who said he found the intellectual discussion stimulating.

We did it

At the event, SMCKL chalked up the first local Swarm Badge on the FourSquare location-based social networking application.

It got the badge when more than 50 attendees “checked in” to FourSquare collectively at the Menara Star, where they had gathered for the discussion.

They checked in by logging in at the FourSquare website on their mobile phones as they arrived.

Carolyn Chan, an organiser of the event, said getting the Swarm Badge showed off the spirit of the social media community.

SMCKL organises monthly conversations that explore the technology issues facing society.

Some 200 people attended yesterday’s event, including journalists, publishers and communications professionals. Many are ardent Twitter and Facebook users.

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