Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Facebook and the civil servants

Michael Geist had an interesting column this week on the hugely popular social networking site Facebook. He provides a bit of a history of Facebook (hard to believe it's only been open to the Internet at large since September 2006!) and some insight into how users are connecting and why it's so popular. Geist notes, "Statistics Canada estimates that there are approximately 17 million Canadian Internet users, suggesting that in the span of nine months the site has grown to the point that roughly one in 10 Canadian Internet users now has a page on the site."

Responding to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's recent statement that Facebook offers little value to public servants, Dr. Geist observes, "Is there really no benefit to having government policymakers access and participate in the hundreds of groups discussing Ontario health care issues? Would it be so bad for elected officials to actually engage with their constituents in a social network environment?"

On his blog, Dr Geist adds the following opinion: "Attempts to block such activity are not only bound to fail, but they ultimately cut off decision makers, school officials, and community leaders from their communities. The answer does not lie in banning Facebook or the other emerging social media sites, but rather in facing up to Facebook fears and learning to use these new tools to engage and educate."

We don't have access to Facebook here, either, but that's because our Agency's net-nanny filters it as a "personals and dating" site.