NATIONAL STUDY RANKS CITY GOVERNMENTS' USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
(March 22, 2012) More than six times as many big city governments reached citizens via
Facebook in 2011 compared to 2009, while use of YouTube and Twitter
grew fourfold and threefold respectively, a new study indicates.
Karen Mossberger, head of the University of Illinois at Chicago's
public administration graduate program, and Yonghong Wu, associate
professor, analyzed and ranked the online interactivity, transparency
and accessibility of the country's 75 largest cities from March through
May 2011. They used the data to compile the Civic Engagement Index, and
compared it with their findings from a study they conducted in 2009.
The cities' rankings reflected opportunities for citizen participation
and information, including:
-- hosting of open data portals
-- comments allowed on blogs and social networks
-- the extent to which online discussions concerned policy as well as
-- information on officials, budgets, city council meetings and
New York and Seattle tied for first place, followed by Virginia Beach,
Va.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Kansas City, Mo., the study
Mossberger said the top-ranked city governments have made technology a
priority, especially for transparency or civic engagement.
"Seattle has long been an innovator in this area, with programs to
address the digital divide online and offline. New York has long used
the web for transparency," she said.
Chicago tied with San Diego and Minneapolis at 17th. Toledo ranked
Twitter was used by 87 percent of the cities, compared with 25 percent
in 2009. Facebook also was used by 87 percent of the cities, up from 13
percent. YouTube links appeared on the websites of 75 percent of the
cities, up from 16 percent.
Nearly all city sites allowed comments on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
and presented policy content such as discussions of city budgets.
"In Chicago, for example, the Emanuel administration solicited budget
ideas last summer on Twitter," Mossberger said. "Louisville Mayor Greg
Fischer regularly holds a virtual 'Talk to Greg' on Facebook and
Twitter. Seattle is experimenting with platforms like the IdeaScale,
where users can submit and rate ideas."
Open data portals were found in only 12 cities: Baltimore, Boston,
Chicago, Honolulu, Louisville, Ky., Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia,
Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The
portals allow users access to city data on crime, budgets, Freedom of
Information Act requests, city facilities, vacant land, building
permits and other matters.
The researchers note that some information is not formatted for easy
use by average citizens.
"For example, cities often post files that require special software,
such as geographic information system software. And budget data can be
difficult for citizens to understand," Mossberger said.
Mossberger predicts that new apps may make information on data portals
more usable. Apps designed in competitions in Chicago, New York, and
Washington, D.C. have focused on civic engagement as well as city
"First-place winners in New York and Chicago addressed traffic and
parking," Mossberger said. "But in Chicago, another winning app allowed
residents to contribute ideas for a park. Other apps have been designed
to track lobbyists in Chicago."
In another study confined to Illinois' 20 largest cities, the
researchers found that 55 percent of the cities used Twitter, Facebook
and YouTube in 2011, compared to 15 percent for Twitter, 10 percent for
Facebook, and 10 percent for YouTube in 2009.
"Ultimately, the impact of these tools depends on factors other than
technology -- the quality of the information, local government
practices and citizen response," Mossberger said.
- UIC -
UIC News Release
March 22, 2012
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