Trinidad and Tobago Monitors Public Opinion Through Social Media
Social media like Facebook and Twitter are channels commonly used by citizens across the world to voice their opinion on any number of topics, including their opinions on their government and leaders. This means social media posts are a useful source to measure public opinion, which, when strategically used, can serve as input to improve government programs and services.
Such is the bet the Ministry of Trade, Investments, Industry and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago made last year when they hired a company to monitor people’s opinions on social media. According to Trinidad Express, the government contracted a specialized agency on web analytics to monitor public response to government activities. Specifically, the news reports on how this service was used to determine the public’s attitude regarding billboards that had been put up along certain highways with holiday messages from the Prime Minister. While this move had been first perceived as controversial, the analysis on social media comments showed that 49% of the people had actually provided a positive response to the billboards, 42% had been negative, and 9% neutral.
While this type of use of social media is actually recommended for governments—monitoring how people perceive the government’s work and services—, it’s important for officials to be clear about how this monitoring works. When news about the monitoring broke, people showed concern believing this monitoring may imply prying into private information or communications. In response to this, Jeston Lett, owner of the government contracted company, JL Creative Source, came out to assure the public that he would only be monitoring public postings online. He also explained this was done by performing specific searches on social media through keywords and that these results were then analyzed using special software.
In response to this initiative, Minister Vasant Bharath told Trinidad Express: “Whatever we do, we measure to ensure that we get the response that we want, if not, we can tweak it; every action that we take as a Government, we want to ensure that it is benefiting the people and they get value from it.”
As this monitoring continues, it will be interesting to see how public opinion is incorporated into improving government services in the country.
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