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Obsolete Regulations Block Government Adoption Of Social Media

The U.S. government's CIO told Congress this week that obsolete regulations are blocking agencies from serving the people by participating in top Web sites and social media. Regulations governing the use of cookies and -- ironically -- disclosure laws are keeping government stuck in the 20th Century.
The U.S. government's CIO told Congress this week that obsolete regulations are blocking agencies from serving the people by participating in top Web sites and social media. Regulations governing the use of cookies and -- ironically -- disclosure laws are keeping government stuck in the 20th Century.It's a case of bringing government where the people are:


"Increasingly, social networking sites, online shopping portals and commercial search engines are where the American people spend time online," said Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, which is a newly created position at the Office of Management and Budget. "Access to government services should be just another component in a seamless digital experience."

The government should take advantage of existing online technologies and networks, such as the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, rather than "reinventing the wheel," Kundra told a Senate panel. The government wastes money developing new tools in those areas rather than using what is already in place, he said.

Laws that predate the Internet block use of existing tools. For example, agencies looking to do a survey need to put a notice in the Federal Register "seeking comments on whether the public should be asked for comments."

As humorist Dave Barry would say: I am not making this up.

Likewise, prohibitions on using cookies block use of many applications, Kundra said.

But government also needs a sound business reason for using social media like Twitter and Facebook, he said.

Kundra makes a lot of sense here.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are analogous to physical places in the real world -- people spend time there, and government agencies and businesses looking to reach those people are wise to go to the social media site, rather than expecting people to cme to the organization's site elsewhere on the Web. It's similar to the way that agencies of a city government will sometimes hold hearings in different neighborhoods of town, rather than always expecting the citizenry to come to City Hall.

So it makes sense for agencies to put information on social media, and communicate with citizens on those sites.

On the other hand: Agencies need to make sure their use of social media makes sense for the organization, and is implemented in a way that advances the mission.

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