MMDA on the CyberRoad
In recent news, the new MMDA chairman, Francis Tolentino, intends to make use of social networking sites, namely, Facebook and Twitter as means of disseminating information and fostering public involvement in the agency’s day-to-day operations.
It is commendable that a goverment agency like the MMDA, whose operations and services greatly affect the Metro, is ready to venture into social networking sites. The use of this social media type can, indeed, reach a lot of people with just a simple post or tweet, and in turn, the public can reach the MMDA with their complaints and suggestions with a wall post or a comment. On the other hand, there is always a concern with people flooding and overloading the page with their posts.
As with the use of any communication channel, there will always be pros and cons.
First, the pros:
1. Information dissemination through social networking sites can quickly reach a large number of people in real time. With radio, traffic updates are announced by the hour or within a specified time interval. On the other hand, the MMDA can constantly inform the public bottlenecks in traffic as they happen anytime within the day.
2. Public service announcements and news on developments around the Metro is just a click on the “Share” or “Tweet” button away.
3. The public can directly post news (accidents), complaints (poor traffic management) and suggestions (a new traffic scheme) on the Facebook wall. People now have a hotline to the MMDA without even the use of a phone. On the other hand, the MMDA can quickly act on accidents and other traffic issues as soon as the public posts them. Furthermore, complaints and suggestions by people directly affected can help the MMDA decide on which action to take.
4. People can comment on any news and announcements on developments and policies. Real time and direct feedback from the public can aid the agency in choosing which policies to implement, what other improvements to consider, and determining which existing policies and schemes are effective and which needs more attention.
5. The discussions feature on Facebook can be an avenue where the MMDA can engage in real time conversation with the public. Other than being able to respond directly to issues, the MMDA can initiate interactivity and collaboration between common citizens, the agency, and even other stakeholders.
6. Other than disseminating information and receiving feedback to and from the public, the MMDA can also reach other stakholders like transport groups, environmental organizations, NGOs, local governments, businesses, and other players from the private sector.
7. Conversations and discussions between the public and all concerned sectors level the field between the citizens, the MMDA, and other groups and organizations. Issues between all those concerned can be resolved quickly, since everybody is in direct conversation with everyone else. After resolving these issues, all the groups can work towards other policies which can benefit them all.
And now, the cons:
1. Even though the use of social networking sites is a good way of disseminating informating and garnering feedback, the MMDA can only reach a part of the population who has access to computers and the internet. The greater part of the population, especially those below the poverty line do not have the resources to have computers and internet connections, much less navigate to Facebook and Twitter.
2. Traffic will increase on MMDA’s page itself. The agency might have difficulty in sorting through all the information that people post.
3. The MMDA might also have difficulties in responding to each concern, since they have limited physical resources.
4. On the part of the public, there is no assurance that the MMDa can attend to each and every complaint.
5. The public might get frustrated if they receive minimal feedback from the MMDA.
And so, the recommendations are:
1. The MMDA should still keep in mind that in their case, the use of social media and social networking sites is a supplement to their use of traditional media and not a replacement. They should still look at other ways on how to enhance their use of traditional media, since the majority of their target audience has the trimedia as their source of information.
2. The MMDA should at least answer back to the posts or comments that are posted on their Facebook site or tweet back on Twitter. They must keep the flow of communication and the interaction going. If they could not accommodate some complaints, they should be honest in saying so. At least, they could let the public know that they are listening but that they have limits.
3. The agency should constantly monitor comments and mini-conversations that happen around Facebook and Twitter to gain better insight on what the public thinks and what services they need and want.
4. They should have people who will solely take care of communications on Facebook and Twitter, aside from those who take calls.
5. The MMDA should be active in online discussions. More than monitoring and analyzing comments and responsing, they should be the ones to initiate conversations so that they could elicit issues, problems, solutions, and suggestions.
6. The MMDA should encourage all concerned sectors to participate in discussions.
7. Aside from using social networking sites, they can also improve their website. They can make it more organized and interactive. Also, it would be a good idea to post live video feeds of main roads and intersections to aid motorists in finding alternative routes.
The MMDA has a long way to go in the implementation of this online campaign. The essence of having social networking sites is to connect with people. For a government agency directly involved with providing public service, they should always bear in mind public involvement. The MMDA is already on the right track. The key is to interact, interact, and interact.
You can visit MMDA’s Facebook account at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Makati-Philippines/MMDA/71033958712?v=wall.
You can also access MMDA’s Twitter page at http://twitter.com/mmdaontheroad