Government authorities in South Africa are tapping into the growing volume of people who use Facebook and Twitter as an instant source of information.
There are around 2.4 million Twitter users in South Africa (12 percent of the population) which has doubled from the number one year ago. There are more than six million South Africans logged into Facebook.
Leading the way as the most popular and active authority is the City of Cape Town. It has 10,787 followers [email protected] while its Facebookpage has 2,798 likes. Users can interact with the account and receive regular updates on traffic and public transport.
In the city’s latest Public Participation report while noting its preferred way of interacting with residents was the printed media it admitted there was a need to explore “additional tools to expand, and improve the quality and reach of participation”. The report singles out social media.
Despite this admission and the popularity of its Twitter and Facebook pages, there is no direct link to the official streams via its website.
Gauteng Province, home to Johannesburg, has 5,422 followers [email protected] It has no official Facebook page, but an unofficial page has 1,782 likes. The University of Johannesburg has 11,376 which gives a hint to the number of untapped people the authority is missing out on.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, centred on Port Elizabeth, Twitter [email protected] has 1,066 followers, while its Facebookpage is liked by 1,870 people.
The eThekwini Municipality, home to Durban, has taken its social media one step further by setting up its own YouTubechannel, but there are only 18 subscribers. Its Twitter account is followed by 1,053 people and its Facebookpage has 2,246 likes.
Free State has taken a different approach to interacting with its residents by encouraging its Premier Ace Magashule to set up a Twitter account [email protected] He Tweets regularly on state affairs and his diary updates, but there is no service similar to the one offered by Cape Town which keeps followers updated on traffic, highway works and events. Magashule also has his own Facebookpage which is liked by 1,002 people. His Twitter account is followed by 1,637 people.