Social Media Becomes Force for Improving Developing Cities

Luis Alberto Moreno explores how Facebook and Twitter are improving cities in the developing world, as the governments of many Latin American municipalities take advantage of the explosive growth of social media to engage with citizens.
November 14, 2012, 10am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Moreno surveys the growing use of social media by governments of Latin American cities large and small as the "[u]se of social media [grows] at a breathtaking pace across the region." For an example, he turns to the Twitter feed of the mayor of Mexico City. "At first glance, it looks like a strange mix of unedited rants by aggravated citizens and upbeat public relations by an ambitious mayor. But a sustained look shows that a surprising number of these virtual conversations follow a cycle - citizen complains, mayor listens, city solves the problem - that until recently would have seemed utopian for an overpopulated and underfinanced metropolis in the developing world."

"The governments of virtually all large Latin American cities now use social media to engage with citizens, and smaller cities are quickly following suit," says Moreno. "The Inter-American Development Bank recently found that social media is used by governments in 70 percent of the region´s 140 'emerging cities' (those having 100,000 to 2 million residents and above-average economic growth rates)."

Looking at the prospects for the continued use of such platforms in the future, Moreno believes that, "[a]t a minimum, these technologies will give new vitality to the ancient ideals of participation and accountability. At best, they might shorten the wait for new lights in a darkened park. In either event, the next mayor of Mexico City, like others across the developing world, will not really have the option of ignoring social media. That's where people are choosing to speak, and where they expect to be heard."

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Published on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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