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A Social Media Mayor!

Stephen was recognised as one of Australia’s leading social media Mayors – he wrote this column about the topic…

Social media certainly isn’t for everyone, however it has pervaded the community beyond the under thirties digital natives who spend too much time in front of a computer.

The growing ubiquity of smartphones and emerging infrastructure such as Adelaide’s world class free Wi-Fi network and has made social networking just a finger tap away. It is therefore no surprise that the average twitter user is around 40 years old, whilst for Facebook it is closer to 50. In fact 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind.

From my experience, social media is now entrenched as an important feature of community engagement. I am able to connect directly to the community and get great feedback, questions and ideas every day. With thousands of Twitter followers, lots of “friends” on Facebook and an active Linked In account, never has an Adelaide Lord Mayor been so connected and accessible. This connection to the community has been useful to bust myths, promote events and encouraging feedback. I’ve even been tweeted to adjudicate on back yard BBQ debates! A new age of influence and communication is upon us where connecting communities has become more dynamic, agile and responsive.

Whist the internet is now part of civic life; many are not connected due to education, limited opportunity or the pressure of a household budget. The ‘digital divide’ is resulting in further isolation of vulnerable community members and additionally we must also be cognisant of the quality of information, cyber bullying and parental supervision.

For those on the front foot there has never been a better time to be a part of the emerging digital economy, whilst all levels of government should bring everyone along on this exciting journey. Council has responded by providing iPads for loan, training at our city library digital hub and the best free Wi-Fi network in the country. Smart phones are also dropping in price and the fastest take up of technology has been with the baby boomers.

The impacts of social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas is beginning to change our city landscape with much more change imminent. Smart city technologies will be a multibillion industry and there will be winners and losers; productivity, liveability and the sustainability of our cities will be shaped by our phones and how we use them. It will be the communities that embrace this innovation and ensure they are “ahead of the curve” that will define the new global economy and it is my hope that Adelaide will be critical part of this new conversation. One thing is for certain, communities will be reshaped in ways that we are yet to fully appreciate!

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