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Role of social media in promoting SDGs

Published : Tuesday, 1 December, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 577
Md Jahangir Alam

Role of social media in promoting SDGs

Role of social media in promoting SDGs

Currently, as per the demand of the day and age, social media has become an essential part of our lives which has made a vast impact upon the whole world. Social Media is rapidly getting adopted in the public and private sector to disseminate information, provide services, and keep in touch among individuals. It is commonly used for establishing and maintaining relationships with friends and family, communicating, and interacting between service providers and seekers. Now, it is used for government to have better and quick service delivery, inform and interact with the citizens. It empowers citizens to participate in development activities, innovation or idea sharing, problem solutions and raising awareness. Many studies show that social media is identified as an important tool for government service and public-service engagement.

Bangladesh is on a journey with the agenda to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in response to a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Seventeen goals and 169 targets of SDGs declared by the United Nations constitute a universal, integrated, and transformative vision for a sustainable world. SDGs are a follow-up of the MDGs that was completed in 2015. SDGs target 16.10 ensures public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. Bangladesh has formulated the 'Right to Information-2009' act for ensuring people�s access and right to information; Bangladesh Constitution protects people's fundamental freedoms and rights. Besides, Prime Minister's Office has initiated the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program, which gives huge opportunities for ensuring citizen's access to information and building a digital nation through delivering services at the citizens' doorsteps.

However, media is one of the critical actors for widening these opportunities and protecting fundamental freedoms. In the context of the SDGs, media is an integral part of raising awareness among people about the goals, targets, and their relevance at the national and local levels. And it can catalyze citizens' empowerment through informing, educating, and sensitizing them. Besides, media can help citizens to hold government and authorities into account through providing a platform for public debate and discussion. Social media is critical along with mainstream media to have fulfillment the 'leave no one behind' commitment of the SDGs through creating a voice for those who are often not heard.

Bangladesh has moved seven notches up in the SDGs index 2020 as it ranked 109th among 166 countries compared to last year. Recently, the Government published 'Bangladesh SDGs Progress Report 2020' highlighting how much effort will be needed to reach the SDGs and meet the commitment to leave no one behind. Social media which is now has turned as new media, has significant potential to use for promoting government service delivery including the SDGs.

It is estimated, there are about 36 million social media users in Bangladesh. Currently the number of social media users has increased by 3 million from April 2019 to January 2020. Another study shows that 94.46 percent of social media users use Facebook, and 3.31 per cent use Youtube. The growth of social media use in the developing countries is changing as people communicate and interact with each other and with private and public sector organizations including local government. Citizens are becoming more empowered.

In line with social media guidance, government departments use social media sites to deliver their objectives. In March 2016, Cabinet Division issued the 11-point guidelines for social media use for the civil servants with provisions against the propagation of political ideology and provocative statements. Civil servants have been instructed to follow the 'social media usage guidelines in government offices-2019 (Revision Edition), provided by the Cabinet Division, to help raise awareness regarding social media platforms and ensuring its proper usage. The guidelines have been drafted in order to ensure effective use of social media in the government offices. Government officials and institutions slowly but increasingly adopt social media in order to serve better their mission. We have 6,686 digital centers covering all unions of the country to provide more than 270 services to the citizens of remote areas. All offices in districts and Upazillas now have launched Facebook pages, these pages are being used to redress citizens' grievances contributing immensely to the provision of better, quicker, and more affordable public services.

New media tools empower citizen journalism. Users have the power to disseminate information through social media as the journalists do. The emergence of citizen journalism in social networks has helped to found new tools of communication, information, and journalism for the twenty-first century. General people can send news and views; can shoot photos or videos of the problem of their own areas. Citizen Journalism helps to broadcast and focus the issues of any neglected areas, remotest regions in the country.

Social media can promote accountability in government actions through monitoring the performance of public institutions, exposing any misconduct, providing instant feedback, and advocating for change. Social media can spread information on the status of progress and challenges related to the SDGs, highlight the human story behind the data and numbers, and put pressure on the governments to take necessary action to effectively implement the SDGs. It works as a tool that may facilitate mass people realizing the SDGs and engage them in the activities related to SDGs. It helps to channel through SDGs-related information and thus leads the flow of dissemination more quickly.

The number of social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram, Whatapp, Twitter, and Youtube users have been increasing rapidly. The government has initiated to promote public service-related social media pages, so that citizens can get the desired information and services directly and promptly. Several rules and regulations have been formulated by the government to promote and practice the SDGs. Private organizations, NGOs, and other stakeholders should take initiative and arrange seminars, conferences, and workshops on the guidelines, methods, and tools for using social media appropriately to promote SDGs implement them at the macro and micro level much effectively and successfully.
The writer is a Senior Information Officer at Press Information Department (PID), Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka

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