The reports carried in the local press on the proposed use by the government of new media to increase public participation should be welcome news.
But are there any issues that need to be addressed before using such platforms? The impact of new media is not lost on governments. Its effect and reach has been amply demonstrated in how to win an election like US President Obama did, how to get news out there when local media is unable to carry it for one reason or another, like how the world got to know about Neda Agha-Soltan's death while protesting election results in Iran or how citizen journalists can get better coverage and a wider audience while reporting on an on-going crisis just like the 300,000 plus hits Thai bloggers were achieving when they were lucky to garner 1000 hits a month.
Putting socio-political effects of using new media aside, there is the more basic and mundane issue of complying with the terms and conditions of these new media platforms which may need to be addressed before governments start using them for their own purposes.
For starters, sites like Facebook, MySpace et al, limit the use of their services for "private, personal and non-commercial use". The other issue that may be of some concern is the applicable laws for the use of the services. The default applicable law is the law of the U.S state in which the company is incorporated. The US government led effort in this area led to the conclusion of landmark agreements with new media service providers to enable US Government agencies to use their services and comply with federal regulations at the same time.
The big question is not whether new media should be used by the government, rather the question is when and how to do so. This will require a paradigm shift of mindsets due to the dynamism of Web 2.0 technologies. There is a need to accept constructive criticism and be ready to deliver on the complaints received from the public. Change will happen to the way things are done and how it will be done. My fear is that by the time we think we're ready, the landscape will have changed so much that we're back to starting again. There will never be a 'good' time to start using new media - just the preparedness to understand the impact and embrace the change that it will bring.