Various agencies and officials in the Georgian government are increasingly embracing social media and Web 2.0 tools in order to communicate with the country's computerized population. As the technology develops and more Georgians join social media sites, it becomes clear that the government intends to directly connect with its citizens. The leading reformer in the region, Georgia follows a world-wide trend of digitization and e-government by taking concrete steps online.
For example, citizens can download the driver's license preparation test from the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, register and declare their property on the Revenue Service's website and, in February this year, Transparency International Georgia, with the support of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in Georgia, launched Chemikucha.ge, a local version of the British FixMyStreet.com, an online platform enabling citizens to report problems such as potholes or garbage collection.
Chemikucha.ge – chemi kucha means “our street” – is designed to help and encourage residents of Tbilisi to report local problems on their street to City Hall. The reports are located on a map and can be viewed and discussed by residents, stakeholders and representatives of the competent government authority. The platform, launched through a year-long project, enables the public to monitor the competent authorities reaction to a reported issue of concern. Chekikucha is an adaptation of the open-source FixMyStreet concept and can also be accessed at FixMyStreet.ge.
The goal of www.chemikucha.ge is to create an online platform that facilitates direct communication on local problems between citizens and the city of Tbilisi's administration. Furthermore, we want to encourage citizens to report issues in their neighborhood they are concerned about by lowering the barriers to get active, share and discuss problems with others and monitor the authorities’ reactions.
Consequently, the project aims to create more public awareness and debate about dangerous problems on the streets of Tbilisi. By bringing people's concern about local problems into the public sphere, we hope that competent authorities will be able to address and solve those issues more quickly and effectively.
Reports of problems on the streets of the capital will make Tbilisi City Hall officials more responsive to problems that are reported by citizens.
Reports are directly sent to the Tbilisi Municipality and 556 problems have been reported so far, with 344 already fixed. As mentioned above, the Georgian government has been active with social media for some time. Most recently, on 9 June, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava held a live conference via LiveStream. Citizens were able to ask questions through the Mayor's official Facebook page. Around 500-600 people watched the live conference, the first of its kind in the country with similar events promised in the future.
Ugulava has a Twitter account too. Launched in May, 113 tweets have been sent and there are 194 followers at time of writing.
Ugulava is not alone on Twitter either. The Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri, and the Minister of Education and Science also have Twitter accounts. Georgia's first lady, Sandra Roelofs, was also one of the first to use social media, couple of days ago she posted this humorous photo on Facebook.
Ministries and governmental agencies also have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and although it appears many of them have same administrators based on the content shared, they are updated daily. Most of these accounts don't encourage discussion, however. One of the youngest faces in Georgian government, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia also posts job announcements on her Facebook profile, where she has 4143 friends and 907 followers on Twitter.
@VeraKobalia: At the UN climate change conference. No wifi anywhere on site! but lots of smart minds :)
It has to be noted that Facebook pages of governmental officials are actively advertised under sponsored links:
It is unknown why the President, Mikheil Saakashvili, does not follow an example of his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, and open either a Twitter or Facebook account, but given the popularity of social media in the region this might change. With 621,640 Facebook users in the country, Georgia boasts the largest penetration for the social networking site in the region. Facebook is the most popular site according to Alexa.com with Twitter the 13th. Internet penetration is also believed to stand at more than 40 percent although most of the users live in the capital Tbilisi.