Is it now beyond question that social media is the most accurate way of gauging the needs and concerns of citizens? At the Generalitat we’re convinced so. That’s why, for some time now, we’ve been working on putting the trends seen on social media into statistical form. We want to use them to assess the opinion of citizens about our public services. This will help us make better decisions when it comes to improving and innovating.
In this context, a pioneering project has just been announced to include the data and activity on the Generalitat’s social media accounts in the Annual Statistical Action Programme for 2018 (PAAE 2018). The programme corresponds to a new statistical production and dissemination model that is now common in leading European countries. It also improves access to information, both for citizens in general and for researchers in the social sciences, and promotes the evaluation of public policies.
The reuse of statistical information for scientific purposes has been encouraged with the inclusion of social media data from the Generalitat’s official channels in the PAAE 2018. Researchers in the social sciences have long been demanding access to official and reliable data to analyse the performance of public administrations on social media and their relationship with other public actors (citizens, businesses, organisations, etc.). Now the Generalitat has responded to this demand, thus facilitating a better understanding of and improvements to policies and public services.
In this way, the Generalitat has taken a decisive step towards a new approach with citizens, which is more decentralised and horizontal than the classic more vertical model that has prevailed until now. This is because, by making the data public, citizens themselves can assess whether public services are achieving the objectives for which they exist and decide whether or not to restructure or abolish them.
The PAAE 2018 will take into account variables from three social media platforms:
- Twitter. The following will be compiled: published tweets and retweets, retweets and mentions, users who have retweeted and mentioned the corporate accounts, and followers of the corporate accounts.
- Facebook. The following will be compiled: published posts, those with a ‘Like’, those shared and the comments posted, users who have ‘Liked’, shared and commented on the corporate account walls, and followers of the corporate accounts.
- Gencat blogs. The published posts will be compiled, together with the visits and comments posted, and the users who comment on the entries.
Now, how are these data processed? The General Directorate of Citizens’ Services is the body in charge of collecting them centrally, anonymously and in a standardised manner. It does this automatically through gencatGRAM. This is a new infrastructure that draws data from the Generalitat’s digital citizens’ services channels through an application programming interface (API). GencatGRAM not only provides the data that will be taken into account in the Generalitat’s Annual Statistical Action Programme for 2018, but also feeds the digital services activity website http://activitat.serveisdigitals.gencat.cat, which is open to all citizens. By linking gencatGRAM to the Generalitat’s official statistics, the General Directorate of Citizens’ Services has raised their requirements to ensure suitable, exhaustive, higher-quality data.
This new model for the collection-processing-dissemination of social media data fosters the empowerment of citizens. However, it must also be read internally, as the main consumer of open government data is the government itself. This means that the corporate accounts of the Generalitat can use this information to improve their presence and learn from other more successful profiles, as well as to find interesting content to share with their audience.
In summary, all this brings us increasingly closer to a citizens’ service based on the principles of open governance, transparency, and critical evaluation by the citizens themselves. Do you think developing and providing standardised descriptions of the Generalitat’s statistical actions on social media mean we are coming closer to the public administration of the future?