Agency 10: Communication
The Communication Agency is the tenth agency in the community. It is the first of the three agencies that make up the Public Administration Bureau, the other two being By-laws (agency 11) and Public Relations (agency 12) agencies. The agency handles inter-agency communication, internet and mobile phone connectivity, and online content management.
How the agency works
The Communication Agency is served by an executive presidency. The presidency consists of four presidents, representing and serving the four divisions: married men (A), married women (B), single women (C), and single men (D). Together with the presidencies serving the Bylaws and Public Relations agencies, they form a 12-member bureau board. The board performs oversight over individual presidencies, such as the review of policy changes, and areas of common interest to the three agencies.
The bulk of the agency’s work is performed through an automated system, through which participants and community public servants interact with the agency. The system employs modern technological tools to interact with presidencies, participants, and contractors. For instance, machine learning capabilities enable the system to accurately answer participants’ queries, and improve its performance over time. Algorithms can aggregate users’ information and tailor-make solutions for them.
The executive presidency’s core responsibility is to run the system, adjusting it as necessary to fulfill its mandate and respond better to the community’s needs. The bulk of the agency’s operations are performed by contractors, while village presidencies for human relations assist the agency in interactions with participants.
The Capital Agency (agency 8) invests capital in the Communication Agency, which is used for start-up (setting up the automated system, for instance), business operations, and down payment for loans it may take from the Commercial Bank Agency (agency 7). The agency charges participants and other agencies, villages, and districts for the services it offers, which it uses to pay the Capital Bank a return on the capital investment.
Roles of the agency
The Communication Agency performs the following roles:
- Coordinating inter-agency communication
- Facilitating participants’ access to communications services
- Social media management
Coordinating inter-agency communication
Agencies, villages, and districts collaborate on a wide range of issues. They require a common, robust communication channel through which information is posted both for community entities and for participants. The channel is encrypted to protect data. The Communication Agency provides this service through an intranet that it manages. The intranet provides community agencies with a platform on which they can update each other on general information, as well as a means through which inter-entity collaboration can be planned and executed.
The intranet also provides IT support to community public servants. This ranges from emails associated with the community, help in troubleshooting, and providing means through which they can discharge their duties and collaborate with others seamlessly.
Each village, district, and agency has an online channel, usually a website or a portal within their agency’s website (in the case of villages and districts), through which it communicates its work and plans to the public. The Communication Agency liaises with agencies to ensure that the information is presented in a way effective enough to communicate with the intended audience.
Facilitating participants’ access to communication services
The Communication Agency facilitates the provision of communication services such as cell phone connectivity, internet services, and emergency communication. Providing these services requires capital-intensive equipment, including fiber-optic cable, cell phone towers, boosters, and specialized skills.
The Communication Agency controls the physical infrastructure, which it installs and maintains through contractors. In deciding whether to own or hire infrastructure, the agency considers a range of factors:
- Nature of equipment – some equipment is capital intensive, yet risks becoming obsolete quickly due to technological advances, in some instances before breaking even. The agency hires this equipment to avoid loss and ensure high-quality services to its clients.
- Other infrastructure is either sensitive, requiring total ownership, or unlikely to be replaced in the foreseeable future. In other instances, the equipment may be priced well in the market, giving the agency a reason to acquire such property.
- The scale of the equipment – some equipment would only make economic sense if owned by entities serving a larger area than a community, while others only serve smaller areas/ clientele. This will inform the agency’s decision to buy or hire.
- Some equipment may have prohibitive costs to install, such as taking fiber optic cable to remotely-located communities, thereby requiring the Communication Agency to do so instead of hiring these services.
The agency also offers the services enabled by this infrastructure through contractors and charges users. Due to the enormous scale involved, and the interdependence of some communication infrastructure, the agency hires service providers who can build and operationalize the equipment. For instance, it can contract a company like Verizon to build and maintain the physical and digital infrastructure needed to provide mobile phone connectivity.
The agency offers the following services:
- Mobile phone network services, including voice, messaging, and voicemail. This involves setting up cell phone towers and boosters and signing up participants
- Mobile phones, desk phones, pagers, and any other communication devices, which participants hire from the agency
- Internet connectivity – setting up fiber optic connection, installing internet services, and signing up participants
- Internet equipment, including routers, boosters, and other associated equipment
- Entertainment, including streaming services
- Roaming services
- Reward/ loyalty programs to reward callers for using services
- Emergency messaging and alert systems, which are deployed during disasters and smaller emergencies, connect emergency service providers with victims. The services can be used in case there is a fire, hurricane, earthquake, or similar phenomena.
- Telecommunications relay services, which help people with hearing or speaking difficulties to communicate
As it serves participants, the Communication Agency collects enormous amounts of data. The agency uses this information to improve its and other agencies’ automated systems while respecting participants’ privacy rights. The information collected during communications is highly detailed. It can help limited partners in their marketing strategies and enable agencies, villages, and districts to align their services in a particular way, among other uses. Those who seek to use this information pay a fee, along with commitments to respect the privacy laws governing such data. The agency hires contractors who help it to manage the data.
The Communication Agency sets up the infrastructure and services with loans from the Commercial Bank Agency, obtaining the down payment from the capital invested by the Capital Bank Agency. The agency charges participants for the services it provides. It uses therevenue generated to repay loans and pay a return to the Capital Bank for the invested capital.
Online content and social media management
The community understands the power of social media and the importance of having unified messaging to harness the enormous potential of social media tools. The community achieves this through the Communication Agency, which runs various social media accounts on behalf of the community. The agency hires contractors who are responsible for updating the accounts with information the agency wants to communicate. The agency also manages accounts belonging to agencies, villages, and districts, and updates them on their behalf at a fee.
Online content can be both a source of invaluable information, as well as useless, and sometimes dangerous, information. At the same time, some content is not appropriate for some age groups. These issues mean that for the community to get the most out of online content, it must moderate this content, manage access, and train both providers and users on why the measures it recommends are important. The Communication Agency works with service providers (website owners and content creators/ controllers/ editors) to ensure that the content they present to users is appropriate. They also work to implement safeguards based on age, so that minors, for instance, are not exposed to inappropriate material.
Users need to be properly equipped to interact with online content. The agency trains users, through its website, and through automated banners that appear on websites, on responsible usage of the internet, the dos and don’ts, how to harness the power of the internet and other helpful details.
Coordination with other agencies and presidencies
To effectively perform its duties, the Communication Agency extensively collaborates with other agencies and village and district presidencies. The Health and Nutrition Agency, for instance, understands the importance of health information as a key part of getting people to stay healthy. The Health and Nutrition Agency, through its district presidencies, works with the Communication Agency to ensure this information gets to those who need it. The agency also works with village presidencies for human relations as part of the village presidencies’ aim of fostering social cohesion through the dissemination of information that supports this aim.
Village presidencies for human relations assist the Communication Agency in interactions that participants may have with the agency. This may be in terms of failure to access services to the system and ideas on what can be adjusted to improve services, among other issues. The village presidencies may from time to time contact the agency’s executive presidency when and where they see the automated system or other aspects of the agency’s services.
Officing the presidency
The executive presidency of the Communication Agency has its offices in district building 10 first floor, on the western side. The trustee and regulatory agent presidencies that serve them sit across the floor on the eastern side, where they alternate their offices.
The agency is assisted by village presidencies for human relations. The village presidencies have their offices on the 3rd and 5th floors of their district buildings.
During quarterly conferences, the executive presidency, along with the village presidencies for human relations who assist them, sit as highlighted.
During the same quarterly conferences, the village and executive presidencies are seated in a row, as a demographic presidency, as illustrated in this graphic:
Some additional notes/definitions from an earlier version of this page:
- Shared information is an important means through which organizations maintain their competitive advantage. Shared expertise and general information ensures uniformity of direction and interests among all parts of the organization. By facilitating information and knowledge sharing between agencies, the Communication Agency will strengthen the community’s ability to be competitive and sustainable in the long term (Abdul-Jalal, H., . Toulson and D. Tweed. “Knowledge Sharing Success for Sustaining Organizational Competitive Advantage.” Procedia Economics and Finance 7 (2013): 150-157).
- Even as information is personalized, there is a need to ensure it does not breach confidentiality laws that seek to protect people and their private information. The information need not be of a personal nature, such as a condition someone suffers from, or even his or her age. Instead, it can even refer to sensitive information which is targeted to a specific person or group, but which they would not readily share with others. For instance, in a society where homosexuality is not widely accepted, information on how LGBTQ people can protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections must be communicated in a way that does not jeopardize their social status and personal safety (Clark, C. and J. McGhee. Private and Confidential?: Handling Personal Information in the Social and Health Services. Bristol: The Policy Press, 2008).
- Personalizing information has a significant impact on how people regard an institution and the message it seeks to communicate. Studies have found a strong link between customer loyalty and personalized information as well, meaning that people are likelier to respond to information they feel specially suits them. This can be achieved through algorithms, which analyze a customer’s details to target them. The Communication Agency will utilize this approach to better communicate with participants (Ball, D., P. Coehlo and M. Villares. “Service Personalization and Loyalty.” Journal of Services Marketing 20.6 (2006): 391 – 403).
- In most western democracies, the people have the right to information, apart from when such information may negatively affect national security, or the rights of other people. The Communication Agency will endeavor to provide as much information as possible, so that the participants can have a clear idea of how the system is working, its health, and its direction into the future (DoS. The Freedom of Information Act. 27 06 2019. 06 07 2019)
- Online training has some key benefits for those entities that are looking to cut on cost, and enhance the efficacy of their training sessions. This is because research has established a link between online training and better training outcomes. Online training is also cheaper, and does not take too many man-hours, which is of significance to the community’s public servants (Salas, E. “The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice.” Association for Psychological Science 13.2 (2012): 74 –101)
- Businesses need to have practical skills in communication. The communication consultancy offered by the Communication Agency goes beyond basic expression. Participants gain skills in crisis communication. This involves effectively communicating during times of disasters, or extreme negative publicity about a business. Consultancy will also involve skills on how to package their communication for a greater impact, and for a wider reach (Frandsen, F., W. Johansen and A. Pang. “From Management Consulting to Strategic Communication:.” International Journal of Strategic Communication 7.2 (2013): 81-83).
- Communication on bylaws will be part of the community’s wider effort to conduct effective civic education. The Communication Agency will seek to communicate information about the bylaws, their responsibilities and rights in a way that they clearly understand. A populace which understands their civic duties and responsibilities will be more involved in decision making and public participation, ultimately guaranteeing the community’s survival as a social entity (Bayeh, E. “Role of civics and ethical education for the development of democratic governance in Ethiopia: Achievements and challenges.” Pacific Science Review B: Humanities and Social Sciences 2.1 (2016): 31-36).
- The intranet is today a must-have for most modern organizations. Through this tool, organizations are able to post general, yet organization specific and sometimes confidential information. The intranet is easily accessible to the relevant parties, yet well protected from external parties, which may seek to compromise it. The intranet has also been found to enhance collaboration between parties within an entity. These benefits will be especially important in the organization (Usman, M. “Intranet and Its Significance in an Organization.” Researchgate (2015): 10.13140/RG.2.1.3612.4326).