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Get set for Twitter Age social upheavals

Twitter, the microblogging site that allows people to send thoughts and observations on short ticker-like feeds, is a rage in the mobile Internet world, with potential for social impact. N Madhavan comments.

india Updated: May 04, 2009 00:03 IST
N Madhavan

Some weeks ago, in Europe’s poorest nation, Molodova, a young journalist called Natalia Morar created a flutter when she spoke of a local election being rigged on her Twitter feed. A flash protest of 20,000 people followed immediately in a local park.

Twitter, twitter.com, the microblogging site that allows people to send thoughts and observations on short ticker-like feeds, is a rage in the mobile Internet world, with potential for social impact.

Companies like Tata Consultancy Services and Google now have their own Twitter feeds. I hope to start one soon.
The BJP has been using online video site YouTube and its leader L.K. Advani has been using a blog to reach out to people. SMS campaigns are also a key part of the current elections.

There is much evidence to suggest that the next election could be mind-boggling in the way mobile phones and the Internet will influence politics, policy and social behaviour. The Idea Cellular ad on television featuring a political leader using mobile polls to make decisions could well become a reality.

In Canada last week, the government used Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to alert and instruct people to combat the swine flu threat.

India now has about 40 crore wireless subscribers. Of this, 10 crore handsets are data-enabled, implying they can carry broadband content.

Last week, industry researcher iSuppli said that Palm Inc’s rival to the state-of-the-art iPhones made by Apple, called Pre, costs $170 to make. That is just Rs. 8,500 and it is a smartphone complete with an MP3 player and a camera. Such phones will get dramatically cheaper in the next three years. My guess is that wireless subscribers will easily touch 60 crore by then—more than half of India’s population.

Imagine, in such a connected world, what only a fraction of Twittering people can do.