Accurate and instant information saves lives

The government information agency that I work for is now aboard the social media wagon. Although our agency was slow to catch up with the technology (I was already blogging for years before our agency opened its own website), it’s now fast making up for lost time.

Big changes took place about 2 years ago. Information dissemination in real time (aka instantly) quickly became the name of the game. We now disseminate information not only through the traditional channels but via mobile and online outlets as well: text messaging, website, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

This really shouldn’t be a surprise; Filipinos are among the most active users of social media and SMS, so active that Philippines has earned the monicker “The Social Networking Capital of the World.”

In 2011, the blog 24/7 Wall Street, revealed the results of a study on the world’s biggest social networking markets. Philippines  topped the list of countries where Facebook usage per population is highest. In this study, Facebook rules the social media roost (93.9%), then Twitter (16.1%), LinkedIn (1.9%), and good ol’ Internet surfing (29.7%)

But wait, this data was back in 2011. Seeing how Twitter hashtags helped in the coordination of rescue efforts in the recent flooding in Luzon, I’d bet my one-month salary that Twitter usage among Filipinos is much greater now.

Of course, I’m bold enough to make that bet because I have the stats to back it up. *grin*

Just yesterday, national daily Inquirer reported that Philippines has once again grabbed the spotlight as “one of the world’s social media capitals, ranking 10th in the list of countries with the most number of users” on Twitter.

Data from social media monitor Semiocast showed that 9.5 million out of Twitter’s 517 million users were from the Philippines, placing the country in the 10th spot in the worldwide rankings,  trailing Spain but ahead of Turkey.

The feat was achieved despite the fact that only 30 percent of Filipinos have access to the Internet.

Smart Communications, one of the biggest wireless services providers in the country, reported that Filipino tweeps turned to Twitter to spread “critical flood information” at the height of the flooding that struck Luzon areas just earlier this week

The hashtags #rescuePH and #reliefPH greatly helped coordinate relief and rescue efforts as rescuers responded to tweets that sent out SOS for people stranded on their roofs, stuck in their houses with rising waters, and those in hospitals needing urgent food and medical supplies. (more here)

Photo posted on Pinoy Laugh FB Page

A few days ago, we received a text message from our agency’s higher-ups encouraging us to intensify our info dissemination efforts because, as our big boss said: “Information saves lives.”

It’s uncanny how social media has become like a lifeline. A few years ago, I was among those who resisted moves for our agency to jump into the social media wagon. I stupidly believed back then that it would be an exercise in futility. How about those people who don’t have access to internet? Those living in the mountains and remote villages? Those who don’t have mobile phones? How would they get hold of the news that we release?

You see, I was a staunch traditionalist when it comes to journalism. My Dad was a journalist, and our family business is running a community newspaper. I scoffed at the thought that the Internet media will render print media obsolete. I stubbornly thought that tri-media (radio, TV, newspaper) is still the only effective channel of information.

Oh how absolutely wrong I was.

Our agency website is now about to roll out some major overhaul-slash-makeover. As such, the regional and provincial offices will need to catch up with the (fast) pace of technology. We need to be where the netizens are: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Our agency will need to build a stronger presence online, where it matters. Because information does save lives, most especially if it’s available the very instant that it is needed.


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