Politicians and ministries, as well as their corresponding administrators and departments, have been fervent users of social media and the Internet in general to engage with a more connected populace; in terms of soliciting feedback or general comments. In particular, the proactive virtual efforts undertaken by the newly-appointed education and transport ministers have yielded considerable praise and benefits. Nevertheless, moving beyond the comforts of the status quo, it is imperative for the respective bureaucrats to render these channels more sustainable, efficient and productive for involved stakeholders.
Introducing online policy study workgroups will be a good way to gather like-minded individuals with similar passions in specific departments – such as public transportation, healthcare, defence et cetera – and develop proposals for policy recommendations. This can be especially constructive for Singaporeans who are not inclined to pursue their careers in the public service, but still remain deeply interested in providing their inputs on parliamentary issues. The online workgroups can take the form of micro-sites or discussion forums; through which participants will share their perspectives and collectively contemplate the various socio-economic issues. Every Singaporean will be initially invited to contribute – with ministry or agency staff facilitating the dialogue – before more insightful suggestions are filtered out, and more active users tasked to assess the feasibilities of the assorted propositions.
Besides the recent proliferated use of FaceBook pages, the national feedback unit Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH) has endeavoured to utilise a plethora of online platforms and overtures to achieve the aforementioned objectives. However, these methodologies lack awareness, mass appeal and much-desired popularity to drive spontaneity in discussions and engagement; instead, discussion threads speedily die off with the absence of meaningful debate or exchanges.
To further the concept – and simultaneously make it more interesting and attractive – the administrations could include educational institutions, as well as community partners in individual constituencies, to send representatives for participation. Such interactions can be exceptionally advantageous and helpful within schools. Not only would the students and educators be able to put into practice what they have learnt within an academic setting, but also become more socially-aware and involved in their communities.
The conclusion of the General Elections has left many existing pages and websites under-utilised and barely maintained; therefore, instead of letting these virtual networks go to waste, administrative teams should work towards tapping on netizens’ brains to continue conversations on a variety of current affairs or policy matters. Many had proven to be one-hit wonders; now the onus is back on them to continue efforts sustainably.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.