After more than four decades of brutal conflict, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011—becoming the world’s newest country. It faces a long road ahead as it continues to battle poverty, illiteracy and a weak infrastructure. Investing in social media might sound like a luxury in such a context, yet information-sharing and dialogue could be the very foundation of the country’s future.
This is just one of the many compelling issues to be discussed as part of Social Media Week Berlin, one of several SMW host cities. From that fine Germany city to Chicago, from Turin to Los Angeles, this edition of SMW (September 24-28) features a heavy emphasis on politics and government.
Here is a run-down of some of the must-attend sessions:
Open Sourcing A New Nation—Giving Voices to the Voiceless Sitona Abdalla Osman, South Sudan’s newly appointed ambassador to Germany, will discuss the myriad issues facing her nation as part of SMW Berlin, a city that also knows the pain of division. (Official event. Thursday, September 27, 2 pm local time. #SMWBMEETOSJUBA)
Berlin has more SMW sessions on politics and government than any other city this edition. Another fine session is: Human Rights and the Internet. The Internet and Society Collaboratory will present its “Irrepressible Voices” project, which aims to become the leading grass-roots internet-based participation platform for videos about human rights issues. (Thursday, September 27, 11 am local time. #SMWBHUMRIGHTS)
In LA, Mark Horvath, founder of Invisible People, will be talking about homelessness. If you’re looking to promote a cause via social media, then consider Mark a role model. After being unemployed for over a year and losing his house to foreclosure, Mark grabbed a camera and used social media to tell the stories of the homeless. The Huffington Post has named Mark one of the 11 Twitter activists to follow. (Monday, September 24, 2 pm local time. #SMWLAINVPPL)
One does not usually discuss “local government” and “utopia” in the same sentence, or “LA” and “public transit” for that matter. But it’s all happening at SMW during a session called “A City of Angels: How Social Media Is Bringing LA Closer to Utopia. Come learn how public officials are trying to improve the lives of their citizens, 50% of whom are transplants from other states and countries. (Monday, September 24, 10.30 am. #SMWLACIVICENGAGEMENT)
In Chicago, borrowing from the social strategy of his former boss, President Obama, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is socializing local politics. He has appointed people to three new positions: chief data officer, chief technology officer and director of social media. If you’re in the Windy City, come here how the “digital trio” is trying to make local government more transparent and efficient. (Tuesday, September 25, 2 pm local time. #SMWDIGITALTRIO)
And in London, the conversation on social media’s role in public policy will take shape. Last year, the issue took center stage during the London riots. This summer, we witnessed the joy of London’s “social” Olympics. Come join a group of experts as they explore the socialization of politics and public affairs. (Monday, September 24, 4 pm local time. #SMWCIPR)
If you are interested in the role of social media in society and government, then SMW has many sessions in store for you. You can access the entire list of such events by choosing the Politics and Government tab when viewing the schedule. None of us will be able to travel to all the cities, but I found inspiration by just reading about the planned events: People around the world really are using social technologies to improve their corner of the world.