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Chung, Kon Shing Kenneth 2011, Community Building through Online Social Networks: Evolution and Engagement, ACIS 2011 Proceedings, paper 58, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://aisle.aisnet.org/acis2011/58.

Summary

In Community Building through Online Social Networks: Evolution and Engagement, the author explores the role of online social network facilities in promoting collaborative civic engagement by reviewing an online discussion forum (New South Wales Community Builders forum) sponsored by the government of Australia. Online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube have greatly changed the way people communicate, socialize, and contribute to discussions. Unlike the traditional media where people would physically meet in places, such as halls or hotels, to socialize or discuss, online social networks enable people to virtually communicate with each other at the click of a mouse without necessarily seeing each other.

The article, using triangulation of the quantitative method, tries to investigate the development of an online social network supported by the government and determine whether it supports civic engagement or not.  Contrary to a popular belief that, as technology advances and society becomes enlightened technologically, more people are expected to participate in the online discussion forum; the research revealed that the number of participants, communication ties, and postings decreased in the later years (2009-2010) as compared to earlier years (2001-2002). The cause of the decrease is the availability of information in both relational and non-relational sources because of the advancement in technology. The result of the study also indicate that online social network supports decentralization and removes hierarchical and bureaucratic barriers as it helps the government have a flat structure which encourages government-to-citizen communication, citizen-to-government communication, and vice versa.

While both a virtual based community and physically based community have the opportunity to promote civic collaboration and improve social capital, according to Blanchard & Horan (1998), physically based community have a higher chance of improving civic collaboration due to its association with civic places.  

The article, however, concludes that online discussion forum alone is not enough to encourage community building. Integration of services and features of Web 2.0 technologies in online social networks and provision of experienced and up-to-date personnel to help support and engage in the community forums can help government agencies sustain the outcomes for a long duration of time.

Critical Analysis

The article, using triangulation and based on the government’s online discussion forum, researches on the role online social networks play in civic engagement and social capital. While people may believe that the advancement in technology and the increasing number of people embracing technology may result in increased communication, increased number of participants, and increased postings, the research revealed contrary information. The number of participants, communication ties, and postings decreased in later years (2009-2010) as compared to earlier years (2001-2002). This is because, as technology advances and new technologies such as Web 2.0 come up with new features, people prefer using them over discussion forums. Moreover, people become technologically enlightened as years progress and they also become aware of other technologies.

With the advancement of technology and the development of the internet, information is available everywhere at any time (Zimmer & Henry 2007). In case a person wants to get information today, she just searches in the internet and all information related to the topic becomes available within a short duration of time. This makes people participate less or have access to discussion forums. In addition, discussion forums, like other online sites, should be properly managed to have them accessed in the front pages in search engines, i.e., Search Engine Optimization, such as Google. The presence of many web pages and poor management of the forum might have taken it to the last pages in search engines, making it not readily available for participants.

Online social network supports decentralization and removes hierarchical and bureaucratic barriers. This is due to the fact that it encourages flat communication that makes people contribute regardless of their social or economic status.

Peters, CK, Kohlborn, T, Korthaus, A, Fielt, E, & Ramsden, A 2011, Service Delivery in One-Stop Government Portals – Observation Based on a Market Research Study in Queensland. ACTS 2011 Proceedings. Paper 66, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://aisel.aisel.org/acis2011/66.

Summary

The article Service Delivery in One-Stop Government Portals – Observation Based on a Market Research Study in Queensland compares the website of Queensland Government with that of the UK Government and South Australian Government to find out the citizen’s preferred online interaction model between the new “franchise” model and the traditional departmental model, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the available websites. The increased pressure on improved service delivery has prompted both private and public sectors to provide services electronically through introducing of information communication technology. The cost-effective nature of service delivery done online has enabled governments to adopt e-government service delivery. The huge heterogeneous nature of government services has made governments investigate a new service delivery model, known as “Transformational Government”, which groups customers into segments and enables efficient delivery of government services (OASIS 2011). As a result, the use of one-stop online service was investigated to find out if it can be used to satisfy customers.

The authors of the article used observation method to get an understanding of the model users prefer to interact with online services and gain understanding of strengths and weaknesses of the existing websites. The results of their finding revealed that search engine optimization was essential in ranking Queensland Government services high in search engines. Though users were not familiar with franchise sites, they would prefer them after frequent use. This is because the franchise approach is consistent and enables consistent search engine optimization management in all services of the government. In addition, the franchise websites were easy to use, readily provided desired information, and were simple in nature. Unlike news or social network sites, government sites are not frequently visited and are only visited to access a specific govern service. Franchise sites therefore enable users to arrive at the exact government site of a specific searched site. The franchise approach, as opposed to the traditional approach, does not require users to master all government machinery to use, as they do not require knowledge of the government department which offers specific service they are inquiring about. It is therefore recommended that the Government of Queensland, like the UK Government and the Government of South Australia, implement franchise service delivery to serve their clients effectively and efficiently.

Critical Analysis

Efficient service delivery to customers is not only important to the private sector, but also to the public sector. The decision by the Government of Queensland to use information communication and technology to deliver services to clients electronically is a major step to providing clients with effective and efficient services. The observation methodology used to gather information has managed to deliver the in-depth information on the subject. Of course, users will always prefer a technology that is easy and fast to use and that provides relevant information. The use of the online system can only benefit users if it meets their needs. At first, users preferred the traditional Queensland Government online service. When they were told to perform a task they were familiar with, they turned to like the UK Government’s franchise approach when they performed an unfamiliar task. This is because, though they were not familiar with the franchise’s operation, it delivered efficient results compared to that of the Governments of Queensland and South Australia.

The fact that government websites are always visited to provide specific service delivered by the government, franchise service delivery becomes important in providing users with the information or service they need. This is because franchise systems can be optimized with search engines such as Google to make websites rank high in the search engines. Unlike the traditional website access that requires users to navigate through multiple webpages before getting the information they want, the franchise approach directly provide users with the information they search (West 2008). This makes it a preferred government approach in dealing with its large volumes of information and serving a large population.

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