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Indian Government steadily going 2.0

16 March 2011

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Social networking is the latest apparatus of the Government of India to promote citizen participation in governance. Various departments like the Ministry of External Affairs, India Post, and Delhi Traffic Police have benefited from use of social media.

With 8 crore users in India and their ever growing numbers, it is not surprising that social networking sites are fast emerging as the platform of choice for public interaction, not just for commercial but even government entities today.

Governance Now and Microsoft India recently organised a one day event, the Forum, in recognition of the changing face of governance in India.

Inaugurating the forum, the Communication and IT Minister Kapil Sibal, said social media now needs to move beyond its transactional role, and fulfill its transformational potential, as seen most recently in the mass protests in Egypt and Libya.

In the next two years, we will connect every village, every taluka with broadband.

But for that to happen, he said, the internet and social media need to be more inclusive.

“The government has to play a role. In the next two years, we will connect every village, every taluka with broadband. This is our national commitment.”

In a panel discussion that followed, several government departments shared their experiences with social media tools.

Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, shared how the MEA’s Twitter channel played a critical role in the evacuation of Indians stranded in Libya. 

PN Ranjitkumar, Director of the Indian Postal Service, shared how public interaction via Twitter led to the development of a grievances redressal mechanism, which is now helping the department better understand and provide for the needs of existing and potential users.

Next step, said Ranjitkumar, was the deployment of a blog for “deeper and more meaningful engagement”.  

Facebook too has been put to good use by several government departments.

C Chandramouli, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India shared how the Facebook page of Census 2011 successfully addressed public queries on various census related issues. The upcoming National Population Register enrollment and the caste based enumeration will also employ various social media tools, he announced.

The Additional Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Anshu Prakash shared that the department enrolled citizens’ help through its Facebook page, to help clean up the city. More than 2000 designated garbage collection points are being monitored through this platform.

Starting May 2011, the MCD will launch a similar campaign to monitor the cleanliness of public urinals. Similarly, the Delhi Traffic Police department employed Facebook for providing traffic related information and also to elicit feedback on traffic management from Delhi residents. Talking about his department’s experience, Joint Commissioner Satyendra Garg emphasized not just seeking but also incorporating public feedback into the day to day functioning of the government. 

Amidst the success stories, cyber law specialist and Supreme Court Lawyer Pavan Duggal sounded a note of caution. Thus far, the government has no policy to monitor social media and amidst risks of hacking, cyber fraud and other security challenges, there clearly is a need to develop a regulatory mechanism and to integrate web 2.0 into the new IT law.

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