For years, researchers have wondered if social media - Web-based technology designed to connect people - actually contributes to isolation and loneliness.
Bill Greeves wouldn't be a good test case for this theory. In 2008, he founded MuniGov 2.0 - a group comprising 800 public-sector IT employees who discuss how Web 2.0 can improve government.
MuniGov meets twice a month in Second Life or in person. In April 2009, the group hosted what was believed to be the first virtual conference for government, and members also are collaborating on an e-book about the value of Web 2.0 and social media to specific government functions. All different levels of government are involved, which helps MuniGov get a better perspective on where resources should be focused, he said.
In addition to being Roanoke County, Va.'s IT director, Greeves is overseeing a consolidated department that manages the county's 911 call center. His staff recently completed a feasibility study to merge Roanoke's dispatch services with the town of Vinton, and outsourced the county's payroll system and customer relationship management to become leaner and more cost-effective.
Greeves sees Web 2.0 as another efficiency tool. So the county formed a cross-agency working group to write a social media policy. "When I first started doing this, everybody wanted to know, ‘What is Web 2.0 and how are governments using it? Give me examples,'" he said. "Now the tide is changing to, ‘How do I control and manage it?' They want to know more about developing policy ... which shows Web 2.0 isn't just a flash in the pan."