| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Mock snow removal based on SNS messages (December 2011)
In December 2011, the city government created the hashtag #Seoul Snow Removal and conducted a mock snow removal. Through this, Seoul was ready for immediate actions based on emergency SNS messages. Additionally, citizens were prepared to respond to emergency messages, retweet them, and make reports themselves. As a result, the city government effectively dealt with a snowstorm in January 2012.
Checking the entire city government’s SNS sites and preparing procedures to handle citizens’ SNS messages (January 2012)
Based on a survey on all SNS sites run by its different departments, the city government saw the need to set up an integrated SNS channel.
The city government began to process systematically citizens’ opinions posted on the mayor’s Twitter account in preparation for the SMC procedures of : content classification → assignment to departments → designation of personnel in charge → reviews → response.
Forming the “SNS Strategy Meeting” participated in by nine departments (February ~ March 2012)
The city government formed the “SNS Strategy Team” with representatives from nine departments including New Media, Public Communications, Information System, Disaster and Emergency, and Civil Service. The SNS Strategy Team had its inaugural meeting on Feb. 9, 2012, and 11 additional meetings until Mar. 29, 2012.
Launching a pilot SNS project to prepare against storms and floods (June ~ October 2012)
The city government developed “Guidelines for SNS Communication with Citizens in preparation against Storms and Floods.” Such enabled the city to cope with weather disasters more effectively in the summer of 2012.
Establishing the Social Media Center (September 2012)
The city government established the SMC in September 2012 within six months of starting relevant discussions. The initiative was able to fully utilize the electronic infrastructure of the municipal government led by the Information System Planning Division.
Implementing education and completing SNS message handling procedures (October 2012)
The city government implemented an education program on the details of the SMC operations and published procedures for the operations of the SMC.
Launching SMC operations (November 1, 2012)
The city government launched the operations of the SMC on Nov. 1, 2012. The SMC received 20,742 SNS postings for a year until October 31, 2013 and handled 100% of them.
Developing “Seoul’s Guidelines for SNS Communication in Emergencies” (November 2012)
The city government developed “Seoul’s Guidelines for SNS Communication in Emergencies.” The completed guidelines can be applied to a total of 55 different types of disasters in the city. So far, 90 emergency messages have been issued by the SMC. Citizens diligently retweeted the messages and posted their own reports.
Signing of MoU between Seoul Metropolitan Government and Twitter Korea on the establishment of LIFELINE (July 2013)
The city government signed an MoU with Twitter Korea on the establishment of LIFELINE wherein anyone can check information on fatalities, missing persons, and property damage on websites or via mobile devices in real time in case of disasters in the city.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Citizens who were given few opportunities to participate in offline-centered city administrations
Citizens must be primarily credited with the realization of a social media-based open city administration. Previously, young constituents aged 40 or below hardly had time to participate in city administration offline due to their commitments. Now that they can participate through social media and they are voicing their opinions like never before. Following the inauguration of Mayor Park Won Soon, citizens began to send their opinions on various topics including housing, urban planning, city facilities, traffic, and the environment via SNS messages. Prior to the setup of the SMC, the mayor’s SNS account received more than 30,000 postings in a year, indicating citizens’ sharply increasing desire to participate. The situation confirmed that SNS communications were a very effective means of communication between the city government and young citizens in particular.
Civil servants accepting significant changes in the way they deliver public service
Initially, public servants were reluctant to accept the new idea since they did not want to present their official positions on various topics in a much shorter period of time, among others concerns. To address their concerns, the city government offered 32 educational sessions between 2011 and 2013. On November 1, 2012, it published the “Regulations on SNS Civil Service” to help them with their daily duties. The public servants relented. Now, they handle as many as 500 SNS messages per day. They regard citizens’ SNS messages as citizens’ official participation in municipal governance.
Full commitment to communication with citizens by the mayor, a former civic activist
Mayor Park fully recognized the value of SNS communication early on. He considered it a significant tool to realize his values: communication, collaboration, and participation. He continued to emphasize the importance of social media in public service among civil servants and asked them to increase its use in their daily public service. He came up with the idea of building an integrated platform for SNS services in the city government. From his inauguration to the dedication of SMC, he reiterated the importance of communication with citizens via SNS on several public occasions.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Social media costs very little. Seoul had extensive experiences running e-government services. The city government has set up an economically effective SNS-based public service system.
Financial resources - launching SMC with the minimum budget required to build a website
On November 9, 2011, a high-level meeting of the city government decided to boost the use of SNS as a new means of communication with citizens. On January 17, 2012, a decision was made on the setup of an integrated platform for various SNS accounts throughout the city government. The budget for 2012 was set in 2011, but had difficulties reflecting the expenditures in the 2011 budget. The city government’s Information System Bureau agreed to fund the initiative with its budget for maintaining the city government’s website. The city government set up the SMC with a small amount of money equivalent to that required to build an ordinary website for a company. Despite the cost it was a very sophisticated system that could collect messages from a few sources like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs and automatically assign the messages to related departments.
Technical resources - making use of private channel and existing e-government infrastructure
The city government applied the online civil service procedures designed for its e-government to the operations of the SMC, which has sharply reduced the time required to process citizens’ petitions. Previously, the assignment of SNS postings on 44 SNS sites to relevant departments took a day or two. Now, the SMC does the job much faster as it collects all postings, eliminates repeated messages or retweets, and sends messages that should be handled by district offices for “Citizens’ Grievance Redress System” before assigning the rest to departments in the city government. The SMC is connected to the city’s intranet portal, and allows officials in their respective departments to handle their SNS postings on their individual computers. This has helped reduce officials’ reluctance to accept additional SMC-related workloads.
Human resources - collaboration between a social media expert and relevant departments
To promote SNS-friendly municipal administration more efficiently, the city government hired a social media expert as A Special Adviser to the Mayor in New Media. The adviser played a key role in the “SNS Strategy Team” composed of representatives of nine city departments. The team worked out the framework of the SMC. Following the setup of the SMC, the SMC Operation Team was formed with the special adviser and heads of various departments offering public service directly to citizens. They have maintained robust cooperative relations among themselves.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Motivating citizens to increase their participation in city administration
In line with citizens increasing daily use of smartphones, citizens can express their views on the city government’s policies anytime, anywhere. From November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2013, the SMC received a total of 20,742 postings from citizens. They range from serious suggestions on policies to personal difficulties in life. At the end of the day, through the operations of the SMC, the city administration has gained the citizens’ trust. The city government has valued citizens’ input highly, done its very best to respond to each and every one of the citizens’ messages, and disclosed all postings and responses to the citizens. The SMC has contributed a great deal in fostering the cooperative relations between the city government and citizens based on the “sharing of information and participation in governance”.
Reforming the SNS message handling processes
Prior to the setup of the SMC, various departments checked the SNS messages posted on the mayor’s personal SNS account and gave an individual response to the senders. The SMC allows civil servants to answer virtually all SNS messages and shares both messages and replies with everybody, fostering a serious change in city administration. All of the information is disclosed to citizens via SNS in real time.
Institutionalizing the SNS message handling procedures for the first time in the country
On November 1, 2012, for the first time in Korea the city government put into effect the “Regulations on SNS Civil Service”, a legal basis for public service on SNS. The regulations helped reduce civil servants’ reluctance to accept SNS-based public service. The regulations became a model for the “Guidelines for the Operations of SNS-based Civil Service Windows” by Korea’s Ministry of Safety and Public Administration announced on April 11, 2013.
Establishing an emergency & disaster warning and alert system that encourages citizens participation
In the summer and winter of 2012, the city government used SNS to spread its emergency & disaster warnings and alerts. In summer, it also established guidelines for emergency & disaster warnings and alerts via social media. Now, the SMC is equipped with a full emergency warning and an alert feature that effectively issues emergency warnings and alerts to citizens through the 44 city government SNS accounts.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Implementing auditors’ evaluation semiannually
The “Regulations on SNS Civil Service” require citizens’ simple expression of opinions or requests for routine civil service to be processed within 3 hours, matters requiring relevant officials’ reviews, within 3 days, and suggestions on municipal policies, within 5 days. The city government’s auditors conduct audits semiannually. They issue corrective measures to departments that have failed to comply with any part of the regulations. The city government has also issued an SMC manual containing sample responses to citizens’ SNS messages. These examples have helped improve the quality of officials’ responses considerably.
Implementing weekly and monthly monitoring and offering incentives
The city government closely monitors its various departments’ performance in dealing with citizens’ SNS messages weekly and monthly. It analyzes the postings based on areas of interest and departments concerned and looks into their response rates. Twice a year, it presents Mayor’s Awards to officials who have excelled in handling citizens’ SNS postings and names them “Excellent Communicators”. Furthermore, they use data on citizens’ areas of concern and share the information with the entire city government body.
The city government regularly analyzes citizens’ input registered with the SMC to identify citizens’ major areas of concern to effectively use the data
A great advantage to utilizing an SMC is that it gives the city government specific data about growing concerns in real time. For instance, according to the analysis of keywords in citizens’ SNS messages between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013, citizens’ main interest was transportation: bus (994 times), taxi (972 times), subway (678 times), and road (212 times) in order of appearance in SNS postings followed by housing, safety, and environment projects (244 times), the tearing down of slum houses (235 times), and waste (218 times). The results were shared with all the departments of the city government so that they can take preemptive policy actions, especially seasonal arrangements for relevant issues.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
① Having no precedents and overcoming technical challenges
The city government could not find a precedent. It had to create a model for the SMC on its own. Technically, integrating a number of SNS channels like Twitter and Facebook into a single system was challenging.
② Overcoming internal resistance to changes in public service patterns
Responding to citizens’ SNS messages means that civil servants must review citizens’ opinions, make decisions on them, and send out answers publicly and immediately. They were reluctant to cooperate for two reasons. First, handling SNS messages meant additional workload for them. Second, responding to SNS messages within a relatively short period of time is difficult since some issues need serious consideration.
Persuading civil servants that their efforts are required for an e-government and that it is inevitable in this social media era
The city government convinced officials that it is an extension of the electronic civil service required for the completion of e-government being built by the city. The mayor reiterated that SNS service was inevitable in this era of social media. Through regular education on social media, civil servants gradually opened up to the new media and committed themselves to the realization of the new city administration’s values through the SMC.
Overcoming the obstacles
Preparing the relevant regulations and planning for improvements
The city government issued the “Regulations on SNS Civil Service” to encourage officials to engage in SNS-based public service more actively. Through education, it facilitated acceptance of the service by officials while enhancing their abilities to handle SNS responses. The city government will further expedite SNS message handling by the SMC. The center will use the city government’s database and simplify the handling of simple SNS messages/queries starting January 2014. That way, various departments involved in SNS responses will be able to focus more on messages with significant implications. They will be able to spend more time and resources before issuing responses to the significant and difficult messages.