“Zonegrippeaviaire.com, based in Quebec, Canada, is a DIY story (I suppose in French we would say «Débrouille-toi-tout-seul».
This site, run by common citizens, provides open information about pandemic surveillance.
Quebec Government hired the firm BCP – among several projects – to set up a secret ‘Pandemic Watch Portal’, only accessible to 20 officials from Health and Human Services (ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec). BCP received up to $725,000/year since 2005.
This information was revealed to the public in May 2008, when reporter Denis Lessard from La Presse investigated (via the Access to Information Act) about Quebec’s bird flu surveillance activities. (Here is an English translation of this article : http://tinyurl.com/dffuab.)
The president of BCP, John Parisella, is also the actual communication consellor of Prime Minister of Quebec, Jean Charest.
DIY Zonegrippeaviaire.com translates bird flu and pandemic preparedness breaking news in French and blogs about these issues. The community of practice feeding the site Zonegrippeaviaire generates an average of 50 posts per day. The official gov site Pandémie Québec (http://www.pandemiequebec.ca/fr/actualites/actualites.aspx) publishes less than 12 news per year.
Quebec Governement rejected DIY Zonegrippeaviaire in June 2008. Officials said social media are ‘not credible and not mature enough’. This decision is based on a document (written by Services Québec), entitled «Les médias sociaux et la communication du risque» (Social media and risk communication). This document was not published by the government. It was obtained via the Access to Information Act: http://tinyurl.com/9fd6p4
This document concludes: Invest little time and money, and wait untill social media achieve both greater maturity and credibility.
And exactly when that will be?
In the meantime, Quebecois newspapers propagate the media myth of the immature citizen (http://bit.ly/SXDe). [Translation] ‘Sure thing, it’s not tomorrow that we will see bloggors from Quebec play the role of citizen-reporters writing novel news, and being invited to press conferences, as it is the case in Europe and in United States. I think the model of citizen-media is not here.’
And why exactly is that so?
I don’t believe that Quebecois citizens are more immature than any other citizens of the world. There are several excellent political bloggors in Quebec, and I think they are doing a great job as citizen-reporter. As my collegue bloggor Crawford Kilian (Crof’s blog) mentioned last week: Being an active member of the Flublogian community of practice is a “tough job, probably beyond the capacity of a single individual.”