46TH MEETING OF NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INFORMATION – The Delta State Discourse

 The meeting of the National Council on Information (NCI) was held at the Event Center Asaba, Delta State, from Thursday 27th to Friday 28th, October, 2016, with the theme: “leveraging on Information and Digital Technology to Sustain the Change Agenda of Government”. It was attended by 548 delegates from 29 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Goodwill messages were presented by Mr. Festus Okubor, former Commissioner for Information, Delta State, and Mr. Nobert Chiazor, Chairman Delta State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), as well as Comrade Alex Akpu, Chairman, Radio, Television and Theater Workers Union (RATTAWU) Delta State.
           
A welcome address was delivered by the Executive Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who declared the meeting open. He observed that the reality of our fast-paced, high tech global world dictates that information is classified as a valuable asset. When government suffer from credibility crisis, the problem is often traceable to improper, inadequate and inefficient information management that creates chasm and fuels distrust between the governed and their leaders. Hence, information management should be given the same professional, skillful handling and strategic deployment accorded other valuable assets, to maximize its value in public administration and corporate governance.
He also observed that “we live in an information age; information technology is revolutionizing the way we live, work and do business. It has also impacted significantly on the way governments are run. The social media and other digital platforms have empowered the citizens, and significantly altered the media landscape. It is a welcome development to the extent that it promotes citizen participation in government”.
 
In his keynote address, the Hon. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, welcomed dignitaries and participants to the 46th Meeting of the National Council on information. He observed that the theme, “Leveraging on Information and Digital Technology to Sustain the Change Agenda of Government” was very apt, adding that it however evokes a sense of paradox in relation to the great challenges posed by the social media, in circumstances where users’ excesses are increasingly becoming a daunting challenge to information managers. He emphasized that digital technology would undoubtedly facilitate the work of information Managers but regretted that rabble-rousers and emergency purveyors seeking to distort information also have online access to the same technology, circumstances where the latter is faster at attracting readers’ attention and sympathy.
 
The minister further noted that this explain why the Social Media would create and report unfortunate rumors to the effect that “Change Begins With Me”, the National Re-orientation Campaign Project that was launched by Mr. President in September, 2016 costs the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture 3.4 billion Naira, whereas the Ministry’s entire Capital budget for 2016 was 2 billion Naira.
 
With regards to the specific question of what the administration’s Change Agenda is all about, he said; “it is the change from impunity to accountability, change from corruption to transparency, change from a mono-product economy to a diversified economy, change from unemployment to job creation, change from moral decadence to moral revival, change from lost value to restoration of time-tested value, change from reliance on imported goods to made-in-Nigeria products and change from gender insensitivity to gender sensitivity, just to mention a few example”
 
The meeting of officials to prepare the framework for the Council meeting was held from Thursday, 27th October 2016, under the Chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba.
 
After exhaustive deliberations, Council resolved as follows;
  • That both the Federal and State Ministries of Information and Culture should mount aggressive campaign through relevant media massage aimed at making people, especially the youths, to embrace the acquisition of skills as a gainful means to make a living and thus, contribute to the economic development of the Country. Also, the National Directorate of Employment should be involved in the campaign as well as the relevant MDA’s e.g., Education, youths Development.
  • That all State Ministries of Information should collaborate with the National Film and Video Censor Board (NFVCB) centers nationwide to carry out massive National Sensitization Campaign against unwholesome movies. 
  • To encourage States to activate their all media platforms as veritable tools to promote government policies, programmes and key into the “Change Begins With Me” Campaign. 
  • To urge the Federal and States Governments to fast track   action on rural internet connectivity and organize training in all the 774 Local Government Areas on the use of e-media to facilitate rural and urban connectivity. 
  • That the recommendations on the memo on the menace of herdsmen were more of security issues and our role is to emphasize on what unites rather than what divides us. 
  • That in line with its mandate the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) will provide necessary guidelines to states in their effort to set up film offices and listed benefits accruable to states. 
  • To adopt the “Change Begins With Me” as away of life and support the campaign for its successful implementation and sustainability. 
  • To carry out coordinated enlightenment campaigns on government efforts to rehabilitate the Northeast in order to counter negative media reports on the welfare of displaced persons in the IDP camps. 
  • To encourage governments at all levels to enter into public/private partnerships to mitigate the economic burden on stakeholders affected by the Digital Switchover (DSO).
  • To encourage the media to make attractive, the Agricultural sector by promoting mechanized farming and showcasing successful farmers, promote the creative Industries and the uniqueness of tourism as an important sector which is evident in its ability to employ skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower.
  • To sponsor public enlightenment campaign programmes through radio, television, newspapers, and social media in the area of mineral resources exploration and exploitation in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Steel and Solid Mineral Development.
  • To direct State radio and television stations to air jingles produced on the campaign against illicit drug use and trafficking provided by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture free of charge as a social responsibility to the people.
  • That both Federal and State Ministries of Information should mount aggressive campaigns to checkmate the spread of Hemorrhagic fever ailments. Council.
  • That media should take the lead in collaboration with Ministries of Health and Environment.
  • That the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other relevant stakeholders should support the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and State Ministries of Information in the financial inclusion campaign being championed by the bank for wider awareness.  
  • That ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) of Government should obey the Act (Decree 16 of 1990) establishing the Nigerian Institute of Public Relation (NIPR) and ensure that all Information Officers are properly registered with NIPR as a model for corporate bodies to follow. 
  • To encourage the Federal and State government to embark on massive enlightenment campaign on dry season farming I collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • To ensure that broadcast challenges through technology are addressed through effective and transparent policies.
  • To endorse and support the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture with the National Institute for Policies and Strategic Studies to formulate a new National Information Policy.
  • The media should be involved in exposing ill-gotten wealth through investigation journalism and make public office holders give account of their stewardship through the media regularly.
  • To establish social media unit and project monitoring teams in Ministries of Information for effective public enlightenment.

COUNCIL ALSO NOTED AS FOLLOWS:

The invitation by the Nigerian Film Corporation to participate in the 2017 Nigerian International Film Festival.
 
The beneficiary of the Nigerian Film Institutes and Media Arts Studies (NAFIMAS) as being in position to be employers of labour thereby supporting the administration’s efforts at job creation.
 
The need for the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to assume a more robust and progressive role of empowering broadcasters and media managers to perform better for the development of the larger society than impose sanctions and fines.
 
To encourage and endorse Public-private Partnership arrangement to ensure the proposed Multi-Media Center in the FCT and all State of the Federation.
 
The progress so far recorded and encourages the state to put in place infrastructure for digital switch over before June 2017.
 
Thanks the Government and people of Delta State for their hospital.
 
That the date and venue for the next meeting of council was scheduled for September, 2017 to be jointly hosted by Borno and Yobe State in Maiduguri.
 

OPENING SPEECH BY THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE 46TH MEETING OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INFORMATION

Let me formally welcome you all to this 46th meeting of the National Council on Information, holding in this beautiful and friendly city of Asaba. Permit me to thank our host Governor, His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and all the members of his Executive Council, especially the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, for being such wonderful hosts.

2.   The theme of this meeting, which is ‘’Leveraging on Information and Digital Technology to Sustain the Change Agenda of Government’’ reminds us, as government information managers, of what I choose to call the paradox of technology. On one hand, the information and digital technology provides us with great opportunities. On the other hand, it if fraught with great challenges. We are therefore being tasked, on a daily basis, with how to balance this paradox and make the best of it. I will speak more on this in the course of my speech.

3.   Without mincing words, let me say that we, as Minister or Commissioners in charge of Information, and indeed all other stakeholders in the business of government information management, are the true agents of change. Our portfolios and responsibilities bestow upon us the primary role of informing, enlightening and educating the people. In normal times, this task is daunting. Today, with the advent of new information and digital technology, the word ‘’daunting’’ becomes an understatement.

4.   Yes, cashing in on the still evolving new information and digital technology will undoubtedly facilitate our work. The multiplicity, immediacy and pervasiveness of the platforms of information dissemination mean that we can reach more people much faster. That should be a good thing, right? But when you remember that those who are trying hard to distort the information you are putting out also have access to the same technology, you will realize the meaning of the paradox of technology that I spoke about earlier. In other words, the democratization of the technology of information dissemination has posed new challenges to us.

5.   Anyone can wake up this morning and decide to become an online newspaper publisher, an online television station owner, an online radio station operator, a purveyor of news, photographs and videos using the numerous Social Media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter, Instagram and imo, just to mention a few. They spread whatever information that catches their fancy without engaging in the rigours of accuracy, fact-checking and fairness imposed by the traditional media. But there is another problem: They have their own public, and this public believes whatever information they put out! To worsen matters, the traditional media now regurgitates whatever is put out by these emergency purveyors of information

6.   This explains why someone will report that ‘’Change Begins With Me’’, the national reorientation campaign which was launched by Mr. President last month, is costing the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture 3.4 billion Naira, and this will be believed and regurgitated by many, including seasoned writers, without interrogating the imaginary figure against the overall budget of the entire Ministry! This explains why Ministers are daily being dropped on the Social Media. Many of us now wake up to read that we will be dropped as Ministers or have our portfolios changed. Even our families and friends believe what they read or hear in the Social Media than what we tell them.

7.   But we, as media managers, must not despair. We must up our game by keying into the same evolving new information and digital technology through training and re-training of our personnel, acquisition of state-of-the art technology as well as deploying uncommon commitment and passion to what we do.

8.   As agents of change, we must understand the concept of change itself before we can talk of sustaining it. People have asked: What is this change agenda all about? The answer is simple. It is the change from impunity to accountability, change from corruption to transparency, change from a mono-product economy to a diversified economy, change from unemployment to job creation, change from moral decadence to moral revival, change from lost values to restoration of time-tested values, change from reliance on imported goods to Made-in-Nigeria products and change from gender insensitivity to gender sensitivity, just to mention a few examples.

9.  This is what we set out to do with Change Begins With Me campaign, which I referred to earlier. Simply defined, it is aimed at ensuring a paradigm shift in the way we do things. The campaign has no religious, ethnic, political or other coloration. It is just our own way of bringing back those time-tested values that once defined us as a people. We will provide you with more information on this campaign in the course of this meeting, so that you can better understand it and then explore the areas in which you can be a part of the campaign.

10.   We must all be at the forefront of the efforts to reshape our country, to bring back those good old days in which the children of poor parents do not need to know anyone before gaining admission to the best public schools. We must change the widespread perception of our people as corrupt. At the 11th Annual Lecture of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria in Abuja yesterday, the keynote speaker, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, spoke extensively on this issue. He dispelled the popular misconception of the ‘’Nigerian factor’’ that invariably refers to an inherent tendency for corrupt behavior that is said to be in our DNA. He said and I quote: ‘’I believe this to be both untrue and unfair. Corruption is not inbuilt in the Nigerian character. The eminent American Economist, Wolfgang Friedrich Stolper, was one of the architects of Nigeria’s first National Development Plan. He was a constant visitor to our country during the years 1959 to 1962. From his autobiographical accounts, Stolper described the Nigerian civil service that he met as the best in the developing Commonwealth, well ahead of India, Malaysia, Singapore and Ghana. He interacted with eminent Nigerians such as Pius Okigbo, Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Ali Akilu and Ojetunji Aboyade. Stolper, an emigrant from Vienna, Austria, was never known for hyperbole. He described the Head of the Western Civil Service of the time, Simeon Adebo, as one of the greatest human beings I have ever met.’’ End of Quote. You can now see, ladies and gentlemen, that corruption is not in our DNA and that we have not always been the way we are now being portrayed.

11.  This brings me to the issue of perception. It used to be said that there is a thin line between perception and reality. Today, that thin line has totally disappeared. It is now so difficult to say what is reality and what is perception. Little wonder then that perception management has become a whole new vocation. On our part, we must always stay a step ahead of those who are trying to impose a new perception on us.

12.  Now, let’s flip around the saying that to whom much is given, much is expected. Let it read that to whom much is expected, much is given. The new challenge of managing the paradox of technology or managing perception imposes a lot of burden on us as information managers. Ours is undoubtedly the most important portfolio. We are the ones who clean the mess after every holder of other portfolios. When there is Ebola, Lassa Fever, or any emergency health challenge, we are the ones at the forefront of informing, enlightening and educating the people. When disasters strike, we are at the forefront. When the economy faces a downturn, we are the ones to explain. We are not just expected to project positive information, we are also expected to suppress negative ones. In fact, we are required to know much about everything. But when the budget is drawn, we get the lowest allocation. Information management is the most expensive but the least resourced. Our principals must appreciate and ensure that this is reversed in order to put us in good stead to carry out our duties. We must have the resources we need, the training we require and the state-of-the-art facilities we deserve to excel.

13.   Ladies and gentlemen, a new dawn beckons that will greatly enhance our work. The imminent transition from analogue to digital broadcasting offers immense possibilities and opportunities. Apart from the fact that the digitization of television can create 1 million jobs in three years, it will change the way we disseminate information for good. With 24 million television households acquiring the set-top-boxes that allow them to plug into the digital TV revolution, critical information can be passed on to the citizenry through the STBs’ information portal at the push of a button and little or no cost! And the same portal provides for feedback mechanism from the citizenry.

14.  Let me round off by saying that we must always endeavor to make the best out of these interesting times. We must key into the information and digital revolution in order to better deliver on the tasks before us. We must use factual information to drown out those who are bent on misinforming our people and making it impossible for them to be a part of the change agenda. We must always stay ahead of the pack. We must be proactive rather than be reactive. We must never let down our guard because, for information managers, there should be no down time, because while you are fast asleep, those who will make your task impossible are fully awake! We must understand and harness the enormous powers of the traditional and the new tools of information dissemination to communicate the activities of government and also get feedbacks. By these tools I am referring to the radio, television, newspapers, movies, mobile phones and the Social Media. The last two are particularly important, because they are complementary. Almost everything that the Social Media offers can be accessed from your smart phone: Internet, websites, Emails, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, video calls, just name it. But remember, just as you have access to these tools, others also have. You can only make a difference by staying one step ahead of the pack and using facts to drown out fiction.
In the end, if we stay on top of our game, the results will be there for all to see.

15.  Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention

A PRESENTATION BY MR PATRICK UKAH, DELTA STATE COMMISSIONER FOR INFORMATION, ON THE 46TH MEETING OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INFORMATION.

Introduction

We live in an information age, which according to Wikipedia is a period in human history characterised by the shift from industrial production to one based on information and computerisation.

The invention of telephone, the printing press, radio and television gave birth to mass media: marking the earlier phase of the age of information. But it was the computer and all its evolutionary forms which gave rise to the internet that made information ubiquitous and easily accessible, thus opening the floodgates of information to the greatest possible number of people. It doesn’t stop there. Advances in nano-technology and bio-technology among others, will soon further raise access to information and knowledge to a level of ubiquity that only our imagination can limit.

Our world, as we know it, has been innovating since the dawn of time, which has witnessed a period of transition from the nomadic era to the agricultural era where land was the main capital and produce was the main trade. The bi-product of the agriculture era was the usefulness of invention. The invention of the engine paved the way for the factory, which gave rise to the industrial age. In the industrial age, factories were the main capital and labour was traded for money. The bi-product of the industrial era was the focus on communications technology. Computers brought forth the internet, which ushered in the information age. The information era has information and data as its main capital with knowledge as the main product that is being traded for money. The bi-product of the information era is the speedy spread of knowledge.

Knowledge-born innovativeness hastens the pace of problem-solving and facilitates our transformation from mere consumers of knowledge into creative users and prolific producers of knowledge.
In the age of information, it is not anymore simply what you know and how much you know; but also how you can use what you know to create something that produces value for others as well as for yourself.

The rise of a new era

However, there is an on-going argument that thanks to mobile screens, micro-computers and internet everywhere, we are entering a new era that some call it either the experience age, hybrid age or the era of innovation. What is important is that it is an era where creativity is its main capital with innovation as the main product. While these innovations can come in the form of something tangible such as a physical product, or something intangible like an idea, they may also come in the form of a service that is a mix between the two. Regardless of its form, what people will be paying for or interested in are essentially fresh ideas, never-before-tried solutions, original concepts, unique services, new products, unusual experiences, etc.

I am glad that the emphasis of this gathering is on how to leverage information and digital technology to sustain the change agenda. It will interest us to know that the historical elements of the change agenda took its present form with the aid of communication technology, which includes the traditional media (print, radio and television) and the new media (i.e. social networks especially Facebook and Twitter). They are the icons of the information age, a period dominated by desktop computers and an organisation or government’s mission to organise all the world’s information. The icons of the new era look much different, and are born from micro-computers, mobile sensors and high-speed connectivity.

In the information age, the start of communication was information. In the new era there is a shift away from information towards experience – the stories we tell each other now begin and end visually, making the narrative more literal than ever. The central idea of the new era is this, I’ll show you my point of view, and you give me your attention.

The role of Mobile devices

What’s driving this shift? Mobile phones and tablets have changed how we interact online. With a connected camera televising our life-in-the moment, the desire for continual self-expression has taken the driving seat. Today, the feedback loop connecting sharing and attention starts and ends on mobile devices; in the future it could start with contact lenses and end in Virtual Reality (VR).

Two billion people use mobile phones, according to James Katz, professor of communication at Rutgers University. Mobile internet capability allows them to check into social media websites, read communications from their friends and colleagues and send quick replies. At times, the communication isn’t text but a photo completely removing the needs for words to convey a response, feelings and even location. Also, people use the mobile camera in order to capture the funny, intense, memorable moments. Mobile phones certainly replaced the market of camera, now people do not buy additional camera because they have their mobile phone with them.

There is a decline in the sale of desktop computers, according to the latest figures from IDC, a research outfit, the worldwide PC shipments totalled 71.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2015, a year-on-year decline of 10.6 percent. The research noted that one of the causes of decline is attributed to competition from mobile phones and tablets.

If we are going to leverage on information and digital technology to sustain the change agenda, our primary focus should not just be on information dissemination but on the creation of unusual experiences – employing new media applications like Snapchat Live, Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope – to get those who are not part of the change agenda conversation to join in the conversation. The benefit of these applications unlike Twitter and Facebook platforms is that they were built to take advantage of mobile phone cameras and high speed connectivity (4G Cellular).

Why am I bullish about mobile technology (in this context mobile phones and tablets)? And does it relate to the Nigerian market?

Internet penetration in Nigeria and its users

According to 2013 World Population Review report, Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world. However, despite its size and population, Africa, according to the internet world statistics accounts for only seven percent of the world’s internet users. At the same time, some parts of the continent have developed a robust technological culture: Egypt and Nigeria for instance, were ranked among the top 20 countries in terms of their number of internet users in the world. In 2012 Nigeria occupied the 11th position on this list with a total of 48.36 million user.

This high level of internet penetration can be attributed to the use of mobile phones; Neil Gough writes that “the number of subscribers in Nigeria, the world fastest-growing market according to the International Telecommunications Union, increased by 143 percent in the 12 months to June 2003.” According to the Nigerian Internet User Survey, the highest users are students at tertiary institutions who fall between the ages of 18-27 (Jidenma 2011). It is only logical to expect that with such a high level of internet usage among Nigerians, especially students, our method of approach should not dwell on heavy form of media but should instead be focused on providing them the opportunity to see our point of view and they to give us their attention.

The Digital Culture In Nigeria

Nigeria as a developing country witnessed a rapid change in the last two decades after the government opened her doors to technological investors from both within and outside the country. Prior to this time, the Nigeria Telecommunication Plc (NITEL), the state-owned communication agency, monopolised the communication sector and few Nigerians had access to computers and the internet. However, with the deregulation of NITEL in 1992, the information technology sector boomed; investors like MTN, GLO, and Econet emerged to invest in modern telecommunication infrastructure. This also increased the level of technological awareness as many Nigerians gained access to a range of telecommunication /technological products and services, including mobile phones, smartphones, digital tablets, the internet, and PC computers. Nigerians now engage in various web-based activities for both academic and non-academic purposes. Many of these web-based activities, especially social networking, are performed via mobile phones. Emil Protalinski reports that at the end of June 2012, 56.86 percent of Facebook total user base connects via mobile devices (2012). According to a report by Techloy, Nigeria topped the list by accounting for 80 percent of this group (Loy Media 2012).

Creating change agenda contents for the millennials

There is growing evidence that Snapchat, Periscope and Instagram are three visual social networks popular among Millennial. These are the target audience that though they may be hard to sell, if we get them hooked to the change agenda, they can sustain our cause. For the uninitiated, there is a need to breakdown the three social networks and how to make use of them.

Snapchat is a messaging app which allows users to share photos or short videos along with captions to their friends or groups of friends. It is the fastest growing social network with nearly 100 million daily users watching a staggering eight billion videos every day. Out of those, over 70 percent is made up of Millennial. Snapchat is great for sharing-in-the-moment, real experiences. We can create a “change begins with me” content by doing a day-in-the-life of well-meaning Nigerians as it relates to the change begins with me campaign. Viewers will be intrigued to get a sneak peek on how their story evolves and the messages behind them.

Periscope is a video streaming platform which allows users to share live video with real-time interaction. Periscope boast an impressive 350,000 hours of video streamed daily. Around 50 percent of Periscopes users are between the ages of 25 and 34. For us, Periscope can be the perfect window into the government’s change agenda. We can engage live with Nigerian users for feedback or give them the opportunity to ask questions related to the change agenda.

Instagram, the photo (and video) sharing application is the most established platform out of the ones mentioned, with 85 percent of the top brands engaging some of its 300 million monthly active users. Taking advantage of people’s love for great photography, incorporating storytelling, and interacting with our followers will give us an ideal platform for engaging with Nigerians. Instagram is great for competitions, “like for a chance to win” is a quick and easy contest for Nigerians to enter. Alternatively, we can ask Nigerians to take a selfie in chosen locations and tag a theme in the photo to be in for a chance to win. We can use Instagram to build a community around the “change begins with me” campaign by encouraging them to take photos of how they hope to effect change that will be of great benefit to Nigeria using the “change begins with me” hashtag and featuring the best photos shared each week on the instagram account.

To succeed, there is a need to make sure that whatever content is created is unique to the employed platform. What is important here is that we are telling a change agenda story by engaging and inspiring our users. We can also cross promote these platforms with our traditional media and existing social media assets. An Instagram contest can easily be used to drive traffic to our Facebook page; we could use a Periscope stream to encourage visitors to our website; or ask our Snapchat followers to head over and engage with us on Twitter.

The Essence of Leveraging on Information and Digital Technology

To create an unusual experience, there is a need to join some innovative governments who have realised that their primary responsibilities is not only to improve the lives of the people they serve, but also to demonstrate their value and increase civic engagement by using technology and a customer-focused mind-set to innovate and better serve citizens.

These innovative governments have realized this and are using technology and a customer-focused mind-set to innovate and better serve citizens, whether for setting up a business or renewing a driver’s license. In my opinion, the governments who really get it understand three key things, borrowed from the consumer digital/technology sector:

Scale matters. It sounds obvious, but it’s so important that it has to be said. In the consumer internet sector, we understand that a large audience is everything: social networks become more valuable when more people sign up for them, and websites have more influence when more people read them. To have a substantial impact, government services need a substantial audience. When new apps allow residents to buy fishing licenses, check transit schedules, or pay their local taxes on time, the impact adds up. Too many governments measure impact in terms of thousands of downloads or impressions, rather than tens of thousands or even millions. The ones who are really innovating aim bigger.

Engagement depends on smart segmenting. To attain private-sector standards of engagement and conversion, we must also segment and target our audiences — while also respecting citizen privacy. Communications specifically tailored to audience interests are more relevant, which makes those communications more likely to capture attention and engage citizens in programs and initiatives of value.

For example, to better coordinate sanitation services, government can offer junk pick-up reminders to residents through the central communication platform, segmented by location. More households can sign up to receive text message alerts one week before and one day before junk is scheduled for curbside pickup.

Influencers improve engagement. Getting the right message into the hands of the right people creates a viral effect, and we can and should tap into this phenomenon. A 2014 Pew Research study showed that fewer than 30% of adults completed common government services digitally. The key component here is that many citizens may not know about the digital offerings available to them. That’s where advocacy marketing, finding key influencers to help drive our message across, can help.

But uncovering and leveraging these advocates can be a challenge. By identifying and speaking differently to highly engaged audiences, those who are more likely to share content with friends and family, we can capitalize on members of the public to help further disseminate their information. For example, government can leverage insights into top sharers of digital content to determine cross-promotional campaigns they may respond well to.

To sustain the change agenda, there is an urgent need to establish a digital central communication platform exclusively for government, which will house the right technology and well thought-out communications strategy that would churn out streamlined, consistent experience to creatvely engage the public through proactive multichannel communications – including email, SMS, social media and RSS feeds.

When we have succeeded in drawing people’s attention to the change mantra through the information and digital technology, there are three important consequences. First, we need to become masters of “attention management”, which is making sure that people are focused on the right set of issues, and not distracted by the dozens of equally interesting issues that could be discussed. A surplus of, as Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon noted, creates a deficit of attention. That is the real scarce today.

Second, we have to get the right balance between information and judgement in making important decisions. As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, observed, there are two types of decisions: “there are decisions that can be made by analysis. These are the best kind of decisions. They are fact-based decisions that overrule the hierarchy. Unfortunately there’s this whole other set of decisions you cannot boil down to a math problem.” One of the hallmarks of Amazon’s success, arguably has been its capacity to make the big calls based on judgement and intuition.

Finally, the ubiquity of information means a careful balance is needed when it comes to sharing. Keeping everything secret isn’t going to work anymore – but pure transparency has its risks as well. We have to become smarter at figuring out what information to share with the media or online influencers, and what public information to keep track of for their own benefits.

We have to build a competitive position on harnessing information and knowledge more effectively than our predecessors. And with information now ubiquitous and increasingly shared, it is of necessity that we are present everywhere, online and offline, to retell our story from our point of view.