Web site tracks Ottawa

With the federal cabinet encouraging public services to expand their use of social media to communicate better with taxpayers, a new Web site has sprung to help people track what Ottawa’s doing online.

Zegov.ca was launched Wednesday by University of Ottawa communications student Joelle Drouin as part of her master’s thesis on open government. With the help – and a bit of money – from four friends, she hopes the bilingual site will not only be a one-stop shop for finding government information through Web 2.0 sites, but also a way to encourage citizens to speak more to their governments.

“We want it to become a tool for the public to know how their government is communicating with them,” Drouin (pictured) said in an interview.

Zegov – a play on the words “the government” – had its roots in a database Drouin created as part of here thesis, which covers the use of social media in government. Having complied a list of 222 Twitter accounts, 95 Facebook pages and 11 blogs as part of her post-graduate work, Drouin thought “I need to do something with it.” Put it online was the answer.

The site was designed by her and Andreane Drouin-Charette, with help from Sophie Gaudreault, Daniel Brousseau and Jonathan Laurin.

All federal departments and their agencies are listed alphabetically, from Aboriginal Affairs to the Western Economic Diversification office regardless of whether they have social media sites or not.

Eventually, Drouin hopes to add federal YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr sites as well.

The site will likely be used by reporters, public servants who do communications work as well as the general public, she said.

As part of the project she’ll be filing regular statistical reports on Ottawa’s use of social media.

That will expand considerably after Treasury Board President Tony Clement announced guidelines last December on how public servants can use social media. It’s part of Clement’s campaign to encourage a more open government approach by Ottawa.Those social media guidelines should make bureaucrats more comfortable with reaching out through the Web, Drouin said, so there should soon be an increase in the number of sites.

“I look forward to seeing how the government of Canada will integrate social media into its Open Government Action Plan, which is to be published in the next few weeks,” she added. “The Action Plan is part of Canada ‘s commitment to participate in the International Open Government Partnership. I hope to see similar tools and platforms arise as part of this next step toward a more collaborative and transparent government.

Drouin hopes her thesis will be published this summer.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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