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Using Social Media to Promote Local Culture and Development – Patzun Case Study
, Gilber Corrales
and Elsa Estévez
Municipalidad de Patzún, Guatemala
Alcaldía de Cali, Colombia
Center for Electronic Govenance at United Nations University-IIST, Macao SAR, China
This paper presents a case study in implementing a social media e-Government strategy by a rural
government – the government of Patzun municipality in the Chimaltenango department of Guatemala.
An agricultural municipality of 54,000 habitants located in the interior of Guatemala, Patzun is
populated in 94% by indigenous Maya Kaqchikel population. The aim of the strategy is to use social
networks to inform the public, encourage citizen participation, promote transparency and raise
visibility for the community locally, nationally and internationally. The strategy includes YouTube video
channel, photo collection on Google Plus and Pinterest, and a Facebook page, all promoting local
culture and socio-economic development. The strategy received the first prize of the Iberoamerican
Digital Heritage Award at 14th Latin American Meeting of Digital Cities in Quito, Ecuador in
September 2013. In addition, the implementation of the strategy was recognized as a best practice by
the Organization of American States' MuNet Programme which promotes efficiency and transparency
in local administration. This paper summarizes the experience of the implementation of the Patzun e-
Government strategy for leveraging the use of social media. The experience includes: implementation
challenges - changes in government due to electoral cycles, buy-in from government staff and support
from the central government; success factors - political commitment granted by the Mayor and City
Council, regulatory framework underpinning the strategy, teamwork, content licensing and full
utilization of existing tools; and the lessons learnt - there is a strong need for rural governments to
leverage the use of social media to communicate with citizens, a dissemination plan embracing
available software tools should be defined, and multi-disciplinary team should be assembled for
efficient strategy implementation.
Keywords: e-Government Strategy for Indigenous Population; ICT for Development; Social Media;
Guatemala; Rural Government
Patzún (Wikipedia 2013) is a city in the interior of Guatemala at the Kaqchikel region known for its
agricultural potential - 95% of its population live on the export of vegetables to the United States of
America (USA), Canada and Europe. From its 54,000 citizens, 94% is aborigine population of Mayan
Kaqchikel ethnic, and the remaining 6% is Ladino or mestizo population, keeping their own cultures
and traditions. 60% of the population lives in 42 villages and hamlets, while the rest lives in the village
and some cantons formed by colonies. The population remains in their home communities and
villages because the source of their incomes comes from the farms. However, the youth leave their
communities to study or to seek better job opportunities. In terms of migration, there have been
movements only to the USA (illegal) and to Canada (through permanent contracts).
In 2007, the former Mayor, governing from 2004 to 2011, was invited by the Organization of American
States (OAS) to join the MuNet e-Government Program - Efficient and Transparent Municipalities
(Organization of American States 2007). The Program promoted the definition and implementation of
Electronic Government (e-Government) strategies aiming at improving municipal management,
enhancing government communication with the public and encouraging citizen participation. Following
the invitation, the Mayor launched the MuNet Programme, which includes defining and implementing
the social media e-Government strategy.
Based on the Patzun experience, this paper presents a case study about the use of social media to
promote culture and development in a rural community. It illustrates how the implementation of the
social media e-Government strategy contributes to disseminate and promote Patzun culture – e.g.
promotion of Patzun traditions, like handicrafts and religious celebrations; as well as to promote socio-
economic development – e.g. improving citizens’ e-skills, promoting their products and raising
awareness about their needs among international aid organizations.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. Section 2 describes the research methodology. Section
3 introduces five initiatives implemented as part of Patzun social media e-Government strategy.
Section 4 compares Patzun experience with other cases and related work. Section 5 discusses the
challenges, key success factors and lessons learnt. Finally, conclusions are summarized in Section 6.
2. Research Methodology
Two research questions guided the work presented in this paper: 1) how did Patzun implemented the
social media e-Government strategy?, and 2) why the implementation of the strategy can be
considered successful? To answer the questions, a case study-based research approach was
conducted, since Patzun experience embodies a representative case (Yin 2009). A data collection
process identified and gathered data about the initiatives. Five major social media initiatives include:
1) the online government portal, 2) the video channel, 3) the photo albums, 4) fan page, and 5)
boards. The initiatives were documented based on a conceptual framework including the following
constructs: 1) aim, 2) launching date, 3) supporting tools, 4) target audience, 5) content, 6) staff, 7)
usage statistics and 8) development plan. Data was collected based on the insights of one of the
team members implementing the strategy – the ICT advisor. The documentation of the collected data
contributed to answer the first question (Section 3). Based on data analysis and comparison with
related work (Section 4), challenges, key success factors and lessons learnt were identified. Results
helped to address the second question (Section 5). The research methodology is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Research Methodology
3. Patzun Case Study – Social Media Program
Social media “is a group of Internet-based applications that builds on the ideological and technological
foundations of Web 2.0, and that allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content”
(Kaplan & Haenlein 2010). To leverage the usage of such applications, Patzun defined its social
media e-Government Strategy and the program for implementing it, through a consultation process
involving the Town Council, representatives of civil society, and the ICT team of the Municipality,
supported by experts of the MuNet Program and The International Republican Institute (IRI). The aim
of the program is to improve communications between citizens and the government, to open a new
ICT-based communication channel, to promote citizen participation in decision-making processes
related to municipal development, and to promote local activities and culture beyond the local
boundaries. The following sections present the flagship initiatives of the program.
3.1 Patzun Online Government Portal
The aim of the portal (Government of Patzun 2007) is to disseminate general information about the
municipality as well as information related to municipal management - finances, development
projects. It also serves as a gateway to other social media tools used by the Government. The portal
serves as a repository of over 800 files, containing detailed information about municipal studies,
maps, financial reports, and minutes of the City Council meetings, among others.
Created in 2007, it represents Patzun’s main electronic communication channel. Soon after its
deployment, the content was migrated to DotNetNuke Content Management System and later to
Joomla! 1.5. Currently, is being migrated to Joomla! 2.5.
The target audience of the portal includes the general public. Main sections are dedicated to
professionals, college students and middle-aged citizens.
The portal offers a rich content, including historical data, and information about the community culture
and traditions. Dedicated to students, professionals and international organizations, the portal
includes a page dedicated to municipal management - Information and Development page; showing
comprehensive data about the community. It also includes tourism information highlighting main
celebrations of the community. Another section - "Your City" page, publishes information about the
City Council including the minutes of the Council meetings.
Technical issues related to the portal are resolved by the web administrator, and contents are
managed by the ICT advisor and the web administrator. The Mayor and the City Council member
monitor the contents and make timely contributions.
Statistics on the usage of the portal are available since February 6, 2012. The portal received 27,887
visits; 38 visits per day in average. 89% of visitors access through a PC, 10% through mobile devices
and 1% through tablets. Statistics indicate that visitors access the portal from their offices or
workplace. 87% of visitors are from Guatemala, 8% from USA, and 2% from Canada.
Due to the current migration, minimum content is being updated. There is no current plan aiming at
increasing the visitors, since the trend is to move to social media. In the new version, the News
section will be replaced by a Facebook page where news and content will be daily updated. The new
version of the portal will support two languages, so content will be available in Spanish and Kaqchikel.
A snapshot of the portal and some statistics about the usage are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Patzun Government Portal - A Snapshot and Usage Statistics
3.2 Patzun Video Channel
The original aim of the video channel (Government of Patzun 2009) is to showcase Patzun to the
world, to publicize municipal affairs and to promote local development and culture.
Patzun opened its video channel on 12
May 2009 through YouTube. YouTube was selected since it
was the most well-known channel among Patzun population and the most widely used by the youth.
Offering a wide range of topics, the video channel targets the whole population of Patzun, including
youth, adults, elderly, professionals and institutions. Up to date, the channel has a repository of 1,850
files organized by topics of interest in 33 folders and distribution lists. An audience special group
comprises the illegal migrants in USA, who frequently watch the videos. Therefore, the strategy for
uploading content is being revised to address their demand. Table 1 shows some video statistics.
Table 1: Patzun Video Channel in YouTube – Statistics
NO. ALBUM VIDEOS NO. ALBUM VIDEOS
1 Technologies 297 10 Transparency 76
2 Citizen Participation 257 11 Communities –Xeatzan Bajo 65
3 Development 249 12 Communities 57
4 Culture 175 13 Government 56
5 Sports 150 14 Women and Adults 55
6 Education 138 15 Municipality 47
7 Institutional visits 97 16 Lanterns Night 43
8 San Bernardino Fair 85 17 Easter Time 36
9 Kaqchikel 85 18 Religion 33
Through “learn by doing” experience, some criteria for video management have been defined,
including: 1) Themes - most videos are taken in public activities organized by the Government – like
cultural and sport events, social activities of the municipality, inauguration of projects, meetings,
institutional visits, etc. 2) Recording - videos are taken with simple digital cameras, such as 14 and 16
megapixels Canon, Nikon CoolPix L4, Sony Handycam DCR- SX44; and cell phones; 3) Duration –
videos usually last between 1 and 3 minutes, with few exceptions; 4) Editing – videos are uploaded
without editing; 5) Sources - videos are provided from several sources; 6) Workflow - videos are
collected by the web administrator, uploaded by the web administrator or the ICT advisor, promoted
on social networks by both of them, and monitored by the Mayor and the City Council member who
both ensured that the videos are aligned with the government development strategy.
Videos are provided by government departments as well as citizens, and are uploaded to the channel
by the web administrator and the ICT advisor.
Since May 2009 and until January 2014, 1,869 videos have been uploaded, which all together have
288,272 views. Videos are sorted into 33 folders. Since each YouTube folder only accepts 200
videos, some folders were duplicated – like the Technologies, Citizen Participation and Development
folders. The channel reached 202 subscribers, 49 unregistered, so the current number is 153. In total,
nearly 65% of the visitors are from USA and Canada. The average time of watching videos varies
depending on the visitor’s location – 1.28 minutes for USA, 1.30 for Canada, and 1.16 for local. The
video mostly watched is "Patzún Market one Sunday from the corner of the Park”. The video was
watched 13,554 times, 80% of the views are from USA and Canada. Based on statistics showing that
migrants are more interested in watching videos completely than local people, we believe Patzun
videos are being used to accompany migrants staying away from their homes and community.
The number of visitors has been growing with the number of uploaded videos. The highest number of
visits was registered on 23 September 2013 with 2,469 visits. On 16 days, the number of visits
reached over 1,500. Such dates followed major cultural or sport events taking place in Patzun.
The next step for future development of the channel is to enable migrants to generate and upload
their own videos to the channel. As an ongoing activity to promote the channel, videos and
photographs contests are regularly organized. A snapshot of the Patzun video channel in YouTube
and some statistics are presented in Figure 3.
3.3 Patzun Photo Album
The aim of the album (Government of Patzun 2011) is to show municipality affairs as well as the
cultural, social, sport- and development- related activities that are carried out in Patzun, to citizens
and to the world. The album also serves as a repository of images for further analysis of changes
taking place in the town and to show how the Government manages the local affairs. The collection
also publicizes the work of non-government actors.
Figure 3: Patzun Video Channel in YouTube - A Snapshot and Usage Statistics
Created in April 20122, the album was deployed in Picassa and later moved to GooglePlus, since the
latter offers more capacity. The target audience comprises groups of all ages – youth and adults, as
well as professionals and institutions who are made aware of and can follow the development of the
community, through published images.
The collection is organized in 56 folders containing images that best reflect the reality of Patzun.
Some distinguished photos include those taken by a Peace Corps volunteer in 1963, and those about
Patzun culture and cemetery.
The tool is managed by the web administrator and the ICT advisor, although content is provided by
various government departments as well as non-state actors.
Since its inception, 8,200 photographs have been uploaded, the site received 7,131 visits and in total,
440,538 pages or photos have been viewed. In average, 61 photos are viewed by visit. The average
view time is 8:43 minutes. 82% of the visitors are from Guatemala and other countries like USA,
Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and Canada. 99% of visitors access through a PC. To target people on the
move and to improve accessibility, access through other devices need to be promoted.
To stimulate the use of the albums some actions are being conducted, such as an annual competition
of photographs and videos. A snapshot of the photo album is provided in Figure 4.
3.4 Patzun Facebook Page
The aim of Patzun Facebook Fan Page (Government of Patzun 2012) is to provide immediate
information about community activities and to encourage citizen participation. Given the interest
raised by the page, it is also being used to raise awareness of development agencies and
international organizations about daily activities taking place in Patzun.
Figure 4: Patzun Photo Album - A Snapshot
The page was created in June 2012. It addresses the general public, although the latest statistics
show that the followers are 40% women, 60% men, and 70% of them are within 18 and 34 years.
Due to the varied profile of followers, a rich content is offered; such as news, municipal
advertisements, scholarships and jobs opportunities. The Page also displays information from other
social media tools, as well as Government projects, Mayor’s activities, and institutional visits. It also
has posts about social, cultural, and sports activities. Threads that capture greater attention are those
related to culture, local language and sports.
The Facebook page has five administrators – the Mayor, the City Council member, the ICT advisor,
the web administrator and the public relations manager. For safety reasons as well as to respect the
institutional style, a controlled vocabulary is being used and there is a control of followers that offend
or use unsuitable words.
In early January 2014, the page had 1,826 followers. The number of followers increased close to the
dates of the Patron Festivity (May), Corpus Christi (June) and major sport activities (September). In
July 2013, after one year of being launched, the following statistics were available. 399 posts were
uploaded from January to June 2013. 71 posts (17%) were news, 64 (16%) were related to cultural
activities and religious celebrations; 41 (10.3%) were related to development issues, and 31 posts
(7.8%) referred to other social media. Posts related to jobs and fellowships were few – only 23 (8.5%),
although such posts were followed by many users since the topic concerns most of them. Following
the scope of some posts, the election of the Aborigine Queen had 3,508 followers; the carpets for the
Corpus Christi procession had 1,792 followers (435 organic and 1,385 viral); and the interview to a
candidate for the Aborigine Queen was followed by 1,034 people (843 organic and 224 viral). Table 2
shows statistics about the posts. Posts related to cultural and religious activities have in average 40
likes, while those related to development 25.
To achieve further growth, the Facebook page is promoted in all the events organized by the
Municipality, news and announcements are frequently posted, contests managed through the page
are organized regularly, and photos and videos presenting Patzun citizens are regularly published.
3.5 Patzun Boards
The aim of the boards Error! Reference source not found. is to show the most beautiful images of
Patzun. The boards are published in Pinterest complementing the photos available in Google Plus.
Considering Pinterest audience, the most beautiful images are the ones included in Pinterest.
Patzun created the boards in April 2013. Most of the photos show activities taking place in Patzun.
Table 2: Patzun Facebook Page – Statistics of Posts (January-June 2013)
NO THEME CONTENT TOTAL %
1 Development Projects, Infrastructure, Inaugurations 41 10.3%
2 Social Networks Promotion of other social media tools 31 7.8%
3 Sports Sport-related activities 28 7.0%
4 Education Education-related activities 27 6.8%
5 Citizen Participation COMUDE, CCODE Meetings, Community Authorities 24 6.0%
6 Jobs and Fellowships Announcements about fellowships and job opportunities 23 5.8%
7 Municipality Information about municipal affairs, public services, etc. 20 5.0%
8 Women Women-related activities 16 4.0%
9 Environment Environment-related activities 14 3.5%
10 ICT ICT-related activities 15 3.8%
11 International visitors Municipality visitors 10 2.5%
12 Water and Sewage Water-, sewage- related problems and announcements 9 2.3%
13 Health Health-related activities 4 1.0%
14 Cemetery Cemetery 2 0.5%
TOTAL 399 100%
The Pinterest account is managed by the web administrator and the ICT advisor, who are the only
ones authorized to upload photos. The public can like, share and add comments to photos. Currently,
there are 652 images or pins, in 13 boards. The themes of the photos include: Corpus Christi carpets
(128 images); Cemetery (71); Ann Frish’s color photos (62); Patzun scenes (55); Culture (46); Kites
for the deceased (36); Photos in black and white (31); People from Patzun (33); Astrid Rios’s photos
(25); and Diego Lezama’s photos (24). The Pinterest account is followed by 15 people.
A growth strategy for this initiative has not been defined. A snapshot of Pinterest boards is presented
in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Patzun Pinterest - A Snapshot
4. Related Case Studies – Comparative Analysis
Case studies closer to Patzún experience comprise the 16 municipalities in Guatemala that completed
the second phase of OAS MuNet Program in 2011. To compare experiences, the municipal websites
were manually assessed to identify the presence or social media tools implemented as part of their e-
government strategies. The results are shown in Table 3.
The assessment shows that only 19% of the municipalities have an active institutional portal. Only
13% actively post videos on their YouTube channel, 25% do have a video channel but do not upload
videos, 19% do not have a video channel, while 44% do have a channel but the content is outdated
for one or two years. On the use of photo albums through Picasa or GooglePlus, only 19% of the
municipalities have albums, but all of them outdated. With regard to Facebook, 50% of the
municipalities do have an active account; although one municipality has a profile account but not a fan
page. 13% do not have a Facebook account and the remaining 38% are outdated. Finally, none of the
municipalities developed boards in Pinterest. It conclusion, the municipalities decided to target their
social media programs, mainly by creating presence in Facebook, and in smaller degree in YouTube.
Patzun case was also compared with related international experiences. In (Bonsón et al. 2012),
authors studied the use of social media and Web 2.0 in 75 local governments in 15 EU countries.
They concluded that EU local governments’ main aim for using social media is to enhance
transparency and that the goal of promoting e-Participation is still in the early stages. Although about
50% of the governments do not use social media, results show that Twitter is the most popular media
- 32% of the governments have a Twitter account; 29% possess a YouTube channel and 17% has a
Facebook page. As EU local governments, Patzun promotes its YouTube video channel and
Facebook page to enhance transparency. However, it does not possess a Twitter account due to the
low penetration of such tool among its population. Another study analyzes the use of social media
among 250 civil servants in Central Mexico (Picazo-Vela et al. 2012). It concludes that some of the
benefits of government use of social media include better user convenience for the dissemination and
transmission of information and content. The Patzun experience also shows such benefit; in
particular, the convenience of migrant community – by disseminating culture-related information; and
of international organizations – by sharing information promoting culture and socio-economic
development. The benefit also highlights a difference in the aim of using social media by a rural
government – like Patzun, and EU local governments. While Patzun aim is to promote culture and
socio-economic development, EU governments’ aim is related to strengthen governance systems.
Table 3: Social Media Government Programs in Guatemala – Comparative Study
FAN PAGE BOARDS
Canillá http://www.municanilla.gob.gt Outdated Outdated Active No
San Miguel Uspantán http://www.muniuspantan.gob.gt Outdated Outdated Active No
Santa Apolonia http://www.munis antaapolonia.gob.gt No Outdated Outdated No
Cuilapa http://www.cuilapa.gob.gt No videos No Outdated No
Palencia http://www.munipalencia.gob.gt Active No Active No
Rabinal http://www.munirabinal.gob.gt No videos No Outdated No
San Cristobal Acasaguastlán http://www.sancristobalacasaguastlan.gob.gt No videos No Active No
San Diego http://www.sandiego.gob.gt No videos No No No
Acatenango http://www.muniacate nango.gob.gt No No No No
Samayac http://www.samayac.gob.gt/portal Outdated No Active No
San Juan Comalapa http://www.municomalapa.gob.gt Active No Active No
Quetzaltenango http://www.muni quetzaltenango.com Outdated No Active No
San Antonio Sacatepequez http://sanantonio.mancuerna.org No No Active No
Ixchiguan http://www.ixchiguan.gob.gt Outdated No Outdated No
San Juan Ixcoy http://www.sanjuanixcoy. gob.gt Outdated No Outdated No
Unión Cantinil http://www.union cantinil.gob.gt Outdated No Outdated No
5. Patzun Experience – Findings
The following sections discuss challenges, key success factors and lessons learnt of the case study.
The main challenge faced by the program was facing the changes in government due to electoral
cycles. Specifically, in 2011 the new elected Mayor had serious doubts about the viability and
importance of the program. However, after carefully revising the program, he decided to follow up and
strengthen it. To avoid the challenge, the City Council passed a proposal for institutionalization the
Program (see Section 5.2).
Another important challenge is to achieve greater commitment of the municipal staff, so they can be
involved in program activities and contribute with content development. Although 90% of them use
social media to communicate with others, many of them do not possess the required technical skills,
such as managing and using communication tools and email, and file management, among others.
Finally, another challenge is to get the central government or institutions working with municipalities
interested in this type of program and for them to provide support – like training, as well as some kind
of financial, human or technical resources. The experience conducted by Patzun Municipality has
been supported by development agencies - OAS and IRI (International Republican Institute).
5.2 Key Success Factors
Key success factors of the program include:
o Political Will - The success of program relied on the strong support provided by the Mayor and the
City Council. Both, former (2004-2011) and current mayors (2012-2015) firmly believed on and
supported the program with human and financial resources. The current Mayor created the
"Commission for the Information Society and Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT)" within the City Council. Such decision enables that any Information Society- and ICT-
related initiative receives the political support of the Council member representing the
Commission. In addition, to institutionalize Patzun e-Government Strategy and the Social Media
Program, the City Council Act 75-2013, from 7
October 2013 specifies that the use of social
media tools is part of citizens’ rights, regardless the government authorities in place.
o Teamwork - One important decision was to create a team able to drive the Program and to
coordinate the efforts of major stakeholders. The team comprises: 1) City Mayor - gives political
support to the Program and acts as the main Program ambassador; 2) Council Member - is the
representative of the Council Commission for the Information Society and ICT. He is responsible
to support and internally endorse all the Program actions, from planning, through purchases, to
implementation plans. 3) ICT Advisor – is responsible for strategy implementation, tools selection
and content development; 4) Web Administrator - is responsible for managing technical aspects
of social media and for uploading content; and 5) Public Relations Manager – is responsible for
generating content. Other stakeholders working closer with the team include Municipal
Secretariat, Director of Finances, and Municipal Affairs Department.
o Content Management – Content uploaded and shared through social media are in line with the
Government communication strategy. The content shows many daily activities related to
municipal development – like inaugurations, news about development projects, Mayor’s
speeches, as well as information related to government accountability. It also shows events and
activities related to the community culture and traditions. Currently, all content is in Spanish, while
15% is in Kaqchikel. Content presentation is simple and unedited – particularly videos and
photos; so it shows the town “as is”. Government departments and officials provide information in
different formats and team administrators upload it to the social media.
o Licensing - The Municipal Government believes in open data, the importance of sharing
information, and how this contributes to the development of the Information Society. Therefore, all
tools applied by the Program are under the Creative Commons license (Creative Commons
2001). Such decision enables persons and entities interested in publicizing the community to use
and share the images published in Google Plus and Pinterest collections.
o Low Cost Tools - The applied tools have been of low cost, so no large investments for their
development, deployment and operations were (are) needed.
5.3 Lessons Learnt
One main lesson learnt is the importance of having a government strategy that includes a social
media program aiming at improving communication with citizens. The program needs to define
guidelines for administering and promoting the usage of the tools, and for content development.
Another important lesson is to have a dissemination plan for the promotion of such tools, so that each
tool helps to promote the others, and all together achieve growth by increasing the number of
followers. The plan should consider the promotion of social media tools through traditional channels,
for reaching citizens who are not engaged. Finally, it is important that the local government assembles
a multi-disciplinary team, able to generate relevant and high-quality content, and to ensure a
consistent management approach for all tools.
The paper presented the experience of the Government of Patzun - a rural government in Guatemala;
implementing a social media program, part of its e-Government strategy. Five social media initiatives
were introduced. The initiatives proved to contribute to disseminate Patzun culture – in particular to
alleviate the emotional deprivation suffered by the community members who migrated; and to promote
socio-economic development – providing information and raising awareness of international
organizations and aid agencies collaborating with the Government.
From the experience, the challenges, key success factors and lessons learnt were synthesized. Major
challenges include changes in government due to electoral cycles, obtaining government staff’s
commitment for contributing to the initiatives and raising interest and obtaining support from the
national government. Key success factors include the political will of the municipal authorities,
effective teamwork, having guidelines for content development and upload, the policy of open
licensing for publishing data, and the low cost of the applied tools. Main lessons learnt relate to
defining a social media program as part of an e-Government strategy, a plan for promoting the usage
of social media tools, and the relevance of assembling a multidisciplinary team.
Our future work includes packaging methodologies and guidelines applied for each of the initiatives, in
order to create a toolkit for local governments willing to adopt similar social media programs.
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