Abstracts: November 26th, 2008

Social Networking Sites have become a global phenomenon, with communities such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo reporting user figures in the hundreds of millions. Through networks it is possible to identify people who share common interests, professions and pastimes. This report from Communities and Local Government examines ways of using social networks to support digital equality.

Networks exist to support hundreds of subjects from a desire to stop smoking, to coming to terms with a death in the family, to cultivating mushrooms. They open up the possibility of engaging with public services and organisations in a very different way, and have the potential to engage those who may currently find the public sector distant and impenetrable.

Excluded groups and people are among those who could benefit from social networking. Vulnerable groups could be helped by providing them with a voice and by giving access to people with similar issues or challenges, for example people suffering from chronic or serious illnesses such coronary heart disease. Public and third sector services could be linked together to provide a more collaborative approach by involving citizens in the process, for example carers could share their views. Special interest groups could be formed around topics such as school bullying.

The report is available from DCLG. http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/onlinesocialnetworks