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Ongoing and rapid developments in communications technologies have the potential to impact both the way Australian Public Service (APS) agencies conduct their day-to-day business and the way they engage with clients and the community. A recent paper by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concluded that while the communications benefits of social media are relatively undisputed, social media uses go far beyond just improving communications.1 For example, benefits can be realised through using social media tools to re-think ways of providing information, delivering services, engaging with stakeholders, sourcing ideas and information, responding to requests, and collaborating with clients, citizens and the community.

The OECD highlights that social media can drive innovation in public service delivery and government operations, creating opportunities for new partnerships and collaboration. The same paper, however, also cautions that the use of social media by governments carries risk in terms of privacy, quality of information and public perception.

Many Australians are ‘connected’ by way of mobile technologies on an almost constant basis. With this comes an increasing expectation that they will be able to interact with government online or through mobile platforms, in the same way they connect with friends, family and private sector organisations. Improvements in technology continue to drive business opportunities. They change employee and client expectations and facilitate new and innovative approaches to work and the delivery of services. Advances in communications technologies, specifically social media, have the potential to reduce business costs, improve the quality of services and enable greater citizen and community engagement.

This chapter examines the state of the service in relation to how the APS is using social media to harness communication capabilities not available through more traditional channels, such as immediacy of information provision and receipt, and increased transparency and responsiveness. Although noting the risks associated with social media and the requirement for clear strategies and sound governance frameworks, this chapter emphasises social media as an enabler of organisational capability and client and citizen engagement.

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1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2014, Social Media use by Governments, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, France.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018