Social media and the era of digital governance
The advent of technology and social media has brought about new thinking in governance and service delivery. In the past 16 years, nobody knew it would be possible for people to directly liaise and engage their representatives in government beyond the traditional style of meeting which used to bring leaders and citizens together for discussion at the town hall.
In this age of digital technology, the town hall meetings have collapsed and a new approach of digital governance has replaced the old practice. Leaders and citizens now meet on social media to engage in discussions that border on collective good and development.
One of the greatest achievements of digital governance in Nigeria is the boundless opportunities it offers the citizens to contribute to fiscal appropriation process and make inputs to decisions and policies of the government.
Now, it is becoming a norm for government officials to engage the people through the social media; having knowledge on how social media works now seems to be part of the skills of our representatives in government.
This perhaps was the thought of the National Assembly (NASS) leadership under the chairmanship of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who announced in November 2015 that announced that federal lawmakers and their aides would be ‘schooled’ on how to use Facebook and other social media platforms.
By sheer ignorance, many people lampooned the NASS leadership for proposing an inconsequential exercise. After the announcement, the social media was in buzz, as more than 16 million Facebook users joined about seven million Nigerians on Twitter to lampoon the NASS leaders, days and nights.
But still, Saraki insisted his colleagues must receive the digital education. We should ask why the Senate President stuck to his guns. Beyond the criticism that greeted the announcement, I see liberalisation of governance process which would bring more transparency in the way Nigeria is governed.
Before now, the proceedings in the National Assembly used to be shrouded in secrecy. Nigerians did not have opportunities to contribute to budgeting process despite public hearings usually held before budgets got passed.
It appears Senate President was convinced that a digital approach is the only way to productively engage people in governance process and build a citizen-legislature nexus where the people would remain abreast of the ‘official’ dealings in the legislative body.
After the NASS members were trained on the use of social media on November 16, 2015, the developments that followed showed that the digital governance approach adopted by the NASS leadership is yielding good fruits.
If asked, I would say there is more to social media than posting pictures and irrelevant things. Aside the insights into how Facebook played key roles in the emergence of erstwhile President Barack Obama as the first black man in the White House. The whole gist about digital governance is that the NASS is creating a sustainable paradigm for participatory democracy and digital governance through the social media.
A new era has beckoned on the Nigeria’s parliament in terms of the efforts to make process of lawmaking open and engaging. There is now a breath-taking pace of how information is disseminated and accessed. The Nigerian Senate Facebook live streaming gets an average view of four million unique clicks, monthly. On the other hand, the instantaneousness of the live tweets from the Senate’s Twitter handle (@NGRSenate) is another landmark that has received global plaudit.
From the foregoing, it is good to note that digital governance is gaining momentum in Nigeria. Transparency is the bedrock of democracy.
From the NASS and beyond, the rise of the digital media is a clear indication that the Nigerian political landscape is fast transforming, despite the tides of the present challenges. As it is, it is noteworthy that the new trend has sharply decreased the entrenched marginalisation of any group in governance and civic engagements.
But yet, we can do better. We would be more proud when the parliament fully sets another record of e-parliament and disclosure of budget details.