Here in San Francisco, city government has a Facebook page that updates followers on programs like Adopt-a-Street, as well as public safety concerns, like potential BART protests. This page is meant as a supplement to the official website. While many cities and counties like San Francisco have Facebook pages in addition to government websites, one Japanese city is planning to switch its government web presence solely to Facebook.

The city of Takeo, Japan will shut down its official government website and move entirely to an official city Facebook account. Takeo officials believe that moving the government website to Facebook will foster greater interaction between officials and Takeo’s 51,000 citizens. The official website will remain but only to redirect visitors to the Facebook page. The transition will cost the city about 630,000 yen ($8,200).

This move has not been without controversy. Despite criticism, officials say that the Facebook platform allows them to easily address such complaints by directly connecting with citizens. Takeo leaders say the city Facebook page provides citizens with engagement options through its “like” buttons, comments, messaging and chat. The Takeo city Facebook page is set up so that anyone can see the contents, but only registered members can leave comments.

Yet many have expressed concern that they must give personal information to a private entity to participate in government.

Are Government Facebook Pages Gov 2.0?

Certainly, Facebook pages create an interaction between citizens and their government unlike traditional government websites. Luke Fretwell, Founder of Govfresh – a website dedicated to government-citizen collaboration and Government 2.0 – raises some interesting points regarding how to make government websites better. Read his blog here.

Fretwell supports centralizing government websites into one platform for easier citizen use and access – essential Gov 2.0 principals. But he believes these Gov 2.0 aspects can occur on existing government websites by implementing small changes, without having to resort to completely dismantling the official government website, like in Takeo. Governments can have a presence on Facebook and other social media and still maintain a government website.

While here in San Francisco we have both Facebook and an official website, the government doesn’t respond to questions or comments directly on its page. For Government 2.0 to actually work, City Hall has to engage and participate as much as the citizens.

So, what do you think? Does moving an entire government website to Facebook promote better, more open government? Would you participate on the City of San Francisco’s Facebook page if they were more responsive?