In 2013, the Digital Policy Council observed a growth in the number of governments embracing social media, yet, adoption has stalled appreciably in comparison to the past years. Analyses as of December 2013 reveals that 80%, or four out of five heads of state, were utilizing the social media site Twitter. (2012 Report)
A total of 133 world leaders out of 167 countries, had accounts on Twitter set up in their personal name or through an official government office. This represents a growth of 8% over 2012. In 2011, only 69 out of 1642 countries had embraced Twitter, but in 2012, the Digital Policy Council observed a tremendous growth in the number of governments embracing social media — 123 out 164 countries or three out of four heads of state had embraced Twitter, a 78% increase in the number of heads of state and national governments on Twitter from 2011. Despite the fact that Twitter has changed the political landscape, in 2013, there remain leaders in government who have yet to harness the benefits of a platform that allows for direct interaction with constituents.
Today more than 60 nations are involved in that partnership, striving to advance measurable progress in key policy areas such as government integrity, fiscal transparency, citizen empowerment, open data, and natural resource transparency. As part of President Obama’s open government initiative, he directed federal agencies to make publicly available their daily operations and he crafted new guidelines for the Freedom of Information Act. The commitment to “open government” in terms of demonstrable actions has been questioned of late and as Obama pursues his final term in office, the second wave of momentum is necessary to push for increased governmental transparency.
In 2013, Twitter continued to be the platform of choice for political activists to champion government accountability. Across the world, citizen protests were again spurred by the 2011’s pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings where authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and northern Africa fell to rebellions that were in part inspired by social media. Many of the most prolific and popular world leaders on Twitter encountered an increase in protests in their countries in 2013. While some remained unrelenting or failed to acknowledge the protests via Twitter, they all were likely to become better informed about their own constituents having access to their collective opinions and wishes for their nation.
1- PRESIDENT OBAMA again maintained the top spot of all world leaders, with a vast 40 million followers, adding 16 million followers in one year. In January 2013, there were 1.1 million inauguration-related tweets sent out during Obama’s inauguration ceremony, according to Twitter’s government and politics team. This is 13 times more than the 82,392 sent out in 2009 during Obama’s first inauguration.
In the fall of 2013 when the U.S. government shut down due to a budget impasse, it lasted 16 days and generated millions of tweets. President Obama tweeted on September 30, “A government shutdown will have a real impact on real people right away—and the House is hours away from forcing one. #EnoughAlready” During the shutdown, Twitter became a megaphone for politicians airing their frustrations.
2- PRESIDENT SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO OF INDONESIA was a new entrant to the top 10, grabbing the #2 spot formerly held by President Hugo Chávez. Joining Twitter in March 2013, President Yudhoyono is now very connected to his populace with nearly 4.2 million followers. Commonly referred to as SBY, and the first directly elected president of Indonesia, he is often recognized as a champion of anti-radicalization efforts who is strengthening democracy in the world’s most populous Islamic country. SBY’s decision to join Twitter was based on his wish to “give more substance to true democracy” and build trust among the Indonesian people.
In less than three months he had garnered 1 million followers, in part due to Twitter’s popularity in Indonesia. (according to data from PeerReach, 6.5% of Twitter’s monthly active users are based in Indonesia) Throughout 2013 the president expressed his personal views through his Twitter account, including his candid reactions to the alleged wire-tapping by Australian intelligence agencies of his personal cell phone.
3- PRESIDENT ABDULLAH GÜL OF TURKEY increased his audience by over 1.5 million people to approximately 4.1 million followers in 2013. During the 2013 Turkish riots, Gül continued his use of Twitter including a supplemental English account. However, it was his colleague Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey that called Twitter and social media “the worst menace to society” blaming it for the protests that rocked Istanbul. President Gül, on the other hand, said “If there are objections, there is nothing more natural than voicing them” adding that “democracy is not just about elections.”