Canberra the Twitter capital of Australia despite public service fears, study finds

The social media tsars of the Australian Public Service have seemingly failed to limit employee interaction on Twitter, with a study by the Queensland University of Technology finding the ACT has the largest per-capita concentration of users in Australia. 

The study, which was released on Monday and examines the time zones and stated locations of users, found 30,000 people had active Twitter accounts in Canberra and a further 115,000 in the ACT region, which according to the last census had a population of 357,000.

The study found there were 2.8 million registered user accounts in Australia at September 30, 2013, with Sydney having the highest number of users with 394,000, followed by Melbourne with 329,000.

Project lead Professor Axel Bruns, from QUT's Creative Industries Faculty, said the high concentration of Twitter users in Canberra and the ACT reflected a correlation between the demographics of the city and the typical Twitter user. 

''There is a greater uptake of Twitter in the ACT and the Canberra region specifically because the demographics of the city match the profile of the standard Twitter user,'' he said.

''From previous surveys, we know that Twitter users are usually educated, urban, affluent, and aged between 25 and 50.''


Professor Bruns said the popularity of Twitter in the capital was also due to the role the platform plays in discussions of news and politics, ''which is clearly an important part of what happens in Canberra".

"In Canberra, you have a large percentage of the population that is in some way connected to the federal government or federal  administration," he said. 

''We know that Twitter plays an important role in this context, so it doesn’t surprise me that so many people sign up, even if it’s just to follow what’s going on."

Professor Bruns said the findings also indicate public servants were likely to engage with Twitter, despite occasionally stringent social media policies of Australian Public Service departments. 

''We saw a large number of people who listed an ACT time zone or Canberra location but didn’t necessarily say too much about themselves in the description field," he said. 

''It may be that they don’t want other people to know that they are in the public service or that they are using the platform in a personal  way to follow discussions of politics and news."

In April, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet called on public servants to dob-in co-workers who used social media platforms to criticise the government.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick has defended the right of government departments to create their own social media policies and denied that bureaucrats were being gagged or censored online.