The UPA government has quietly hit an online milestone: nearly all its activities are now on “social media” sites. Not bad for a government seen losing some of its touch with the country’s increasingly outspoken young population.
Information and broadcast minister Manish Tewari, a younger politician prompt on the e-mail, had told his officials after taking charge last year that disseminating public information in a digital era was a whole new ballgame. Old ways won’t work and the government could be caught dead if it did not leverage the Internet.
Nearly 100 million Indians, more than Germany’s population, use the Internet everyday and of this, the 40 million with broadband access are the ones most active on social media. Although Internet users are less than a tenth of the country’s population of 1.2 billion, they form a powerful bloc shaping the political discourse.
“When I took charge, one of the gaps I saw in the information-sharing space was the absence of content-agnostic news media platform, including social media,” Tewari told HT on Sunday. The minister then ramped up a drive to overhaul antiquated methods of government outreach entities, such the Song and Drama Division.
In one corner of a sprawling information ministry building, a small team of mostly young recruits tap away at their keyboards, delivering news feeds on Youtube, streaming live official events and uploading official information.
The minister has evolved a “hub-and-spoke model” where all government wings will need to direct their publicity stuff through the information ministry, whose mandate is to bring officialdom to the public.
Tewari and his top bureaucrat, Uday Varma, put together a team of in-house programmers who are now developing an exclusive I-phone “app” to complement their Android version. The ministry also rolled out All-India Radio services on YouTube and for mobile phone access. The drive could help the government connect better to a growing class of disenchanted urban youth, ahead of a general election.