The biggest platform for information in Vanuatu is not Newspaper, it is not Radio, it is not Television, it is Social Media, with Facebook as the leader with a fast growing number of followers.
A key issue, which is visible in Vanuatu is how citizens use social media to reveal serious government wrongdoing. Such revelations would often breach employment contracts, but could be essential to maintaining government accountability and truly responsible government.
There is no BUT in free speech and there are no limits for free speech. There is responsibility but that is a individual choice and it depends on circumstances people go through, witness and face everyday that determines what they post on social media. Evidently, social media has become a voice for the thousands of Ni-Vans who feel there is something wrong, or something right about their beloved country. It has evolved itself as a means of being a voice.
The Vanuatu Public Service Commission has issued instructions that they will from now on say who can access social media in the public sector. What a big joke! They have not yet introduced a public policy for social media and yet want to take control. How can you control something you do not know anything about and have not yet means to control? It is really a bad decision as the stone age is all but behind Vanuatu.
Governments must adapt then proceed to take the people forward. In Vanuatu though, the people adapt and pull the government forward and at times the government must react as it has now done, and it shows how distanced we are from understanding our surroundings and how fast our people are moving forward.
Social Media is the future and you cannot stop the future when it arrives. Newspapers cannot compete with social media, radios cannot compete with social media, and even television cannot compete with social media but how do we prove social media is growing? In Vanuatu, it is easy. 60% of the Parliament is on social media. Yes our elected members of Parliament are already there and they get free WiFi inside the Parliament too.
The Vanuatu Public Service Commission though must prepare itself for this future as it is here and is happening. They must wake up and introduce appropriate measures and not issue stupid warnings that could get them into trouble. If a public servant challenges the PSC instructions in court, the PSC will look stupid as the government only acts within its powers and it does not have powers over social media as it did not give itself any powers over social media.
The government must explore social media and its positives; and look to enhance its own performance via social media to ensure it is beneficial to the country and issuing an instruction that sounds like an infringement to freedom of speech is not something any government would want do at this time where technology has become a curiosity, it has become something everyone will try to be part of and want to be part of.
We are living in the future and our governments must make decisions to show the world, that in Vanuatu, we are moving into the future. Social Media is a platform that is very beneficial to Vanuatu. It is the main marketeer for our tourism sector and the World Bank has acknowledged this in its reports.
The question though is, do the PSC have power to control the use of social media in the public sector?