(Premium) Gist of Yojana: August 2013

Premium Gist of Yojana: August 2013



Recognizing that we are increasingly a nation of a connected billion people, this Government is committed to democratising information and building a unique public information infrastructure in the country. This infrastructure will leverage ‘ICT to revolutionise our current governance and service delivery paradigm. Networks such as the National Knowledge Network, which connects Universities and Research Institutions, and the Rural Broadband Network, which connects Panchayats, will emerge as the new highways for connecting ideas and disseminating knowledge. Initiatives such as Aadhaar and the National GIS will enhance policy planning to make it more efficient and effective, and numerous applications riding on this ICT infrastructure will unleash unforeseen innovation at all levels of the citizenry. As and when this new infrastructure becomes ubiquitous, connecting people and ideas in an ever faster manner, we will witness a generational change in our current processes towards openness, accessibility, transparency, accountability and decentralisation - essentially ‘democratisation of information’. And this democratisation of information will challenge established structures of power built on the premise of information control to change towards a new paradigm of a more transparent and accountable society.

A central piece of this emerging dynamic is the role social media will play in the process of democratising the information regime. Citizens everywhere are already connecting, interacting, sharing and expressing themselves in the alternative space of social media. These platforms, which started at the fringes, are now increasingly getting embedded in mainstream culture and inspiring actions and reactions in our physical world. The Arab Spring is just one of the examples of how this new media is shaping activities in the world of realpolitik.

In fact, social media is fast emerging as a powerful and unparalleled tool to share information, shape opinions, connect people across domains and cultures, bring participation, and above all to communicate as never before. Social media can become a very effective policy tool for Governments if they learn to leverage it in the best possible manner. Governments across the world need to communicate more effectively, engage citizens, garner feedback on policies and programmes in real time, and demonstrate a commitment to a more participative governance model. In all these areas social media platforms can offer the right interfaces and tools. Further, as internet penetration increases manifold and it becomes more localised, social media will enable more and more people to get connected.

At our office we have tried to capitalise on social media platforms for disseminating’ our message and communicating to people in real time. We have held two press conferences on Twitter to engage communities, journalists and the public at large and answer questions on specific themes related to our work. At one of these conferences we got about 2000 Tweets in a matter of 45 minutes - we had participation from more than 150 locations, largely from India but also from Europe, Middle East, UK, South East Asia and other parts of the world. Periodically we post videos and information related to our work on several of our websites and on YouTube. After we hosted the Global Innovation Roundtable 2012, where heads of innovation policy from Governments across the world were invited, we held a virtual press conference on Twitter to share the discussions and outcomes of the Roundtable. We have also initiated a lecture series on the National Knowledge Network which connects all higher educational institutions in the country, where lectures from one physical location are beamed to universities across the country. Finally, we have developed in partnership with the US Government an Open Government Platform to place Government data and documents in the public domain. This is now operational with more than 400 data sets and can be accessed at www.data.gov.in.

Apart from our office, many other initiatives in the Government of India are committed to harnessing social media. An ever increasing number of Ministries I organisations are on social media platforms including the Ministry of External Affairs, the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office. For instance, the Finance Minister conducted a Google Hangout to explain the Budget to the people of the country, a first of its kind at the national level. The Planning’ Commission has also taken some creative steps towards leveraging social media which was demonstrated in its efforts to communicate the 12th Plan via Social Media. The Deputy Chairman and Members of the Commission discussed the plan and answered questions from the public on a Google Hangout for the first time. The Planning Commission in collaboration with our office also organised a Hackathon on the Plan to receive feedback, visualisations, animations, etc. on the subject matter of the 12th Plan. This Hackathon also highlighted the power of this medium to crowd source creativity, talent and new solutions.

This is just the beginning. Social media is still at a very nascent stage and communities across the world are just beginning to understand the potential of this medium to impact discourse and communication. For instance, current methods of communication in Government could change to leverage Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, along with traditional methods such as press releases etc. Further, as traditional media becomes increasingly dictated by monetary decisions and establishment structures, social media will emerge as the more untainted voice of the citizens and will truly be the people’s platform, with the power to transform their transactions and interfaces with Governments.