Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thoughts from the New Media Seminar 2009 (for the Singapore civil service)

Yesterday I attended the New Media Seminar organised by the Civil Service College. I was there to speak, as a representative of my employer the NLB, to share learning points from NLB's new media initiatives.

[Photo courtesy of @victortan]

(BTW you won't see NLB listed, as we were left out of the programme list for some reason).
Civil Service College - New Media Seminar 2009
Link | Sharedcopy

Before I began my presentation, I said "If I exceed my 30mins, feel free to tell me to Shut Up And Sit Down". I think only half the room got the joke. Ah well...

I got to listen to the other speakers and presentation while I waited for my turn to speak.

During the presentation by REACH, on Why and How they use new media for e-engagement, I thought: What does Engagement mean? And how would REACH define it?

So I tweeted this to their twitter account:
"@REACH_Singapore - nice overview of ur new media efforts @ MICA new media seminar. Question: how do u define Engagement? Thks!"
Twitter / Ivan Chew: @REACH_Singapore

They responded today. It was a lengthy response, as far as Tweets go. Four separate tweets (the URLs are listed here):
REACH_Singapore on Twitter

I was quite sure they'd respond to my tweet, for they'd responded to this earlier tweet from me some time ago. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply this time round.

Maybe I needed to be convinced that it wasn't a fluke the first time, LOL.

My session TWEETS
Here are some of my tweets during the session (thanks to the free Wireless@SG). I've left out some of the tweet-responses and re-tweets by twitters who were following me (it was pretty cool to see that sort of "indirect active participation" by the non-participants!).

Oh, at that time I didn't think I'd need a hash-tag but I now realise for easy of reference, I should use one next time:
  • listening to REACH presentation. Why and how they use new media. I've a question: "what does Engagement mean?" [link]
  • think aloud: if engagement means dialogue, REACH has done well. Wrt citizens' views shaping govt policies, I think REACH has done that too. [link]
  • think aloud: the challenge wrt "engagement" is about expectations. Esp. by person giving feedback. Receiving feedback is also an artform [link]
  • listening to kew soon from MICA. he points out blogs appeared in 1999 and are still around 10 yrs later, and growing. [link]
  • good presentation by MICA new media unit officer, on overview of FB. I feel MICA could do a public talk @ public libraries on FB! [link]
  • MICA officer giving talk on "deconstructing wikipedia". could mention RSS updates but good overview. Again, should do public talk! [link]
  • Think aloud: govt agencies should keep track of wikipedia entry of public info. ensure public info is factual and consistent. [link]
  • Learned something new. Starhub is on Twitter: @starhubcares [link]
  • presenter says he didn't need to be @ AWARE EGM to know what's going on. He read Tweets. I'd caution info needs to be triangulated. [link]
  • listening 2 talk on new media use @ 2008 US presidential elections. Think aloud: new media helps get word out but ur word gotta make sense [link]
  • thinking aloud: to me, new media engagement by public service = 80% Listening +20% Responding. [link]
  • think aloud: in a crisis, silence (from the authorities) is definitely not golden. New media will amplify trust or distrust. [link]
  • mentioned in sichuan quake case study - ( [link]
  • think aloud: in a crisis, empowerment of potential citizen reporters is better strategy than trying to manage noise & misinformation [link]
  • contrast of PRC gov & Obama's reaction to online criticisms. Former arrested ppl; latter countered w better information [link]
  • @motorman says: a key diff for SYOG is the equal emphasis on sports and culture. Not merely win or lose but cultural diplomacy. I like that! [link]
  • video @ has teen saying "the site is confusing... I like it" LOL [link]
  • Julian aka @motorman mentions partnership with NLB ask! Service at site. [link]
  • SYOG features educational vids like how doping tests are carried out. Wonder if it's on youtube? [link]
  • SYOG vid: "are you prepared for ur doping test?"; "yes. Urine". LOL [link]
  • Listening to NDP organisers on their thoughts on how to apply new media to NDP [link]
  • NDP ex-co sees new media for content that can't go on to MSM. E.g. What soldiers feel about National Day (no voice to be left out) [link]
  • BG Tan asks if getting controversial blogger would legitimize him/ her. I feel reverse also true: Blogger will help legitimize NDP w reader! [link]
  • this is new to me [link]
  • the earlier HPB site earned me dirty looks. The site loaded on my mobile. Started playing music. Ppl think my phone went off. Darn [link]
  • HPB doesn't stop at websites. They conduct surveys as well. They'd like their users "to be a source of their information" [link]
  • weng keong says SPF approach to new media is "open and pragmatic". Aware they have to mitigate risks of using new media [link]
  • fact: 4 in 10 arrests are public-assisted. SPF sees new media as a natural extension of community partnership [link]
  • SPF youtube channel partly a response to provide authenticated SPF videos [link]
  • SPF provides a sms service for Deaf/ speech impaired persons to contact the police. Wow, I didn't know that [link]
  • SPF allows comments for their new media platforms. Says to not do so is to run counter to web 2.0 spirit [link]
  • think aloud: SPF going into new media (w/o controversy) says a lot about the level of trust citizens have in SPF [link]
  • SPF FB page has fans from outside SG. proves that internet is a global audience, not just local [link]
  • best quote frm MICA new media seminar. SPF said "we experiment w NM in peace time so that we learn how to use it effectively in a crisis" [link]


At the end of the one-day seminar, I felt upbeat about the Singapore Civil Service efforts to embrace new media.

In truth, I was skeptical about the seminar when I learned about it. I thought it would be yet another surface-level attempt at show-and-tell and nothing more.

But from the speeches by the Head Civil Service and the Permanent Secretary, and hearing first-hand the thinking behind the other agencies' new media efforts, I walked away convinced that the Singapore Civil Service is serious about using New Media for e-engagement.

It's not a "let's join the bandwagon" mentality, for sure. It's also not lip service either.

Lest the pessimists think this amounts to some nefarious attempt by the civil service to control new media space, I can only say that I didn't sense that.

During the final panel session, there was a discussion about e-engagement policies. I won't report what was said exactly (I'd like to approach this cautiously, heh).

But I'll share my personal view wrt the civil service and e-engagement (see item 22, here): the civil service's willingness to adapt, and harmoniously evolve, is a lot more optimistic that what might be generally perceived.

I'm convinced the Singapore Civil Service in general, is beginning to get New Media.

To quote one senior civil servant, "this (seminar) is not the end but the start of a conversation".


  1. Thanks for the roundup and the Twitter updates.

    Quite interesting that some people were not aware of your joke even though it was the big thing over the weekend. Guess gahmen is only interested to be seen having a hand in social media, but not really participating. However, I was quite impressed that REACH actually followed me back on Twitter. :)

  2. Heh, maybe my delivery was off. But seriously, I think it's too much of a sweeping statement to say that the govt agencies are not genuinely interested in participation. That's not what I felt from the session. The fact that REACH followed you via Twitter and that it's responding to tweets show that it's serious and more than just "showing face". Let's keep an open mind and see what happens.


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