The Spanish Town That Runs on Twitter

Mark Scott at the New York Times: “…For the town’s residents, more than half of whom have Twitter accounts, their main way to communicate with local government officials is now the social network. Need to see the local doctor? Send a quick Twitter message to book an appointment. See something suspicious? Let Jun’s policeman know with a tweet.

People in Jun can still use traditional methods, like completing forms at the town hall, to obtain public services. But Mr. Rodríguez Salas said that by running most of Jun’s communications through Twitter, he not only has shaved on average 13 percent, or around $380,000, from the local budget each year since 2011, but he also has created a digital democracy where residents interact online almost daily with town officials.

“Everyone can speak to everyone else, whenever they want,” said Mr.Rodríguez Salas in his office surrounded by Twitter paraphernalia,while sporting a wristband emblazoned with #LoveTwitter. “We are onTwitter because that’s where the people are.”…

By incorporating Twitter into every aspect of daily life — even the localschool’s lunch menu is sent out through social media — this Spanishtown has become a test bed for how cities may eventually use socialnetworks to offer public services….

Using Twitter has also reduced the need for some jobs. Jun cut its police force by three-quarters, to just one officer, soon after turning to Twitter as its main form of communication when residents began tweeting potential problems directly to the mayor.

“We don’t have one police officer,” Mr. Rodríguez Salas said. “We have 3,500.”

For Justo Ontiveros, Jun’s remaining police officer, those benefits are up close and personal. He now receives up to 20, mostly private, messages from locals daily with concerns ranging from advice on filling out forms to reporting crimes like domestic abuse and speeding.

Mr. Ontiveros said his daily Twitter interactions have given him both greater visibility within the community and a higher level of personal satisfaction, as neighbors now regularly stop him in the street to discuss things that he has posted on Twitter.

“It gives people more power to come and talk to me about their problems,” said Mr. Ontiveros, whose department Twitter account has more than 3,500 followers.

Still, Jun’s reliance on Twitter has not been universally embraced….(More)”