HELPER IN NEED: A member of the Chinese International Search and Rescue Team searches for survivors in quake-hit Ofunato, Japan on March 17, 2011. More than 1.25 million people follow the team on Sina Weibo, China's leading micro-blogging service (CHEN JIANLI)
According to Wang Hui, Director of the Information Office of the Beijing Municipal Government, while some local government departments are now used to actively communicating with the public via micro-blogs, many others still follow the traditional method of simply releasing information, which is not timely or interactive.
"On the other hand, some government departments have multiple micro-blog accounts, making it difficult for the public to get a clear overall picture of what the government is doing," Wang Hui said.
In response, the Beijing Municipal Government launched its news release platform, called Beijing Weibo Press Conference Hall, on Sina Weibo on November 17, 2011.
Twenty-one departments under the Beijing Municipal Government have joined the platform, and six spokespersons from government departments have opened personal accounts.
All the departments involved are required to release their latest policies and regulations through this platform, and Internet users are able to interact with designated spokespersons of the departments to discuss issues that concern them.
"The Beijing Weibo Press Conference Hall is a convenient e-government platform that collates information from many administrative departments and facilitates interaction between officials and the public," Wang said.
Despite the growing popularity of government micro-blogs, Shan Xuegang, Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Public Sentiment Monitoring of People.com.cn., said that government micro-blogs have further room for improvement, especially in their operation, maintenance and style of language.
A major complaint of ordinary micro-bloggers is that some government micro-blogs, despite opening to much fanfare, are hardly ever updated, and others simply release bland press releases to the public.
The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau opened its official micro-blog on November 17, 2011, and has had more than 40,000 followers. But it seldom receives feedback from netizens and its posts are rarely forwarded or linked to by other bloggers.
"We are confused about how to interact with netizens and are still looking for ways to operate in this new age of information technology," said Zhang Jianshu, Director of Information Services at the bureau.
"The government is no longer talking down to the people but interacting with them on an equal basis," said Zhao Feng, who is in charge of Ping'an Beijing, the micro-blog of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. The account topped the list of the top 10 government-run micro-blogs on Sina Weibo in 2011.
According to Zhao, Ping'an Beijing has established a 24-hour micro-blog operation system with 10 officers replying to netizens' questions in shifts. The officers are required to use more everyday language in their posts as micro-blogs are widely considered a faster and more relaxed communication platform.