The Government Digital Service, part of the Cabinet Office, has published a guide for civil servants to advise them on how to use social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
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In the same report the Home Office also provided guidance for civil servants working in IT on how to overcome the technical barriers to accessing the internet and social media.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude (pictured) said the government must use new technologies such as social media if it is to improve service delivery to citizens.
“Active engagement with social media encourages different ways of working and opens up the opportunity of flatter organisations when communication and knowledge transfer happen in real-time,” he said in the report's introduction.
He added that if civil servants communicate with the public directly they can get a better understanding of needs and concerns.
But “social media must be used responsibly and only when it enhances the core work of civil servants,” said Maude.
Part one of the report, Guidance on the use of social media, puts the guidelines for civil service use into six principles:
- Communicate with citizens in the places they already are;
- Use social media to consult and engage;
- Use social media to be more transparent and accountable;
- Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings;
- Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation;
- Adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline).
Part two, Guidance on overcoming the technical barriers to accessing the internet and social media, advices IT staff how to provide the necessary technical infrastructure, platforms and software to enable access to the internet and social media channels.
Aimed at CIOs, CTOs and other IT professionals, the guidance outlines challenges in relation to: legacy web browsers; the lack of a clear and up-to-date understanding of the risks, benefits and costs; alternatives to preventing all usage; and existing contractual arrangements.
Head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake, himself an avid user of Twitter, also wrote on a blog post that he wants to see Whitehall mandarins making much better use of social media to engage the public.
"I have asked my team to make sure that we remove blocks to civil servants being able to access social media as soon as possible – if we want a civil service that can respond to modern day challenges we need to modernise the way we works and be able to have a two-way conversation with the public through the channels they use," he said.