Govt launches Digital India initiative with Twitter Samvad

  • Hindustan Times, HT Correspondent
  • Updated: Mar 25, 2015 11:25 IST

The NDA government partnered with Twitter on Tuesday to launch a service that will deliver tweets from several politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and departments such as the railways as SMSs on mobile phones.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo met Modi to discuss the new service and announced a partnership that would increase the microblogging site’s reach in India by using missed calls to link tweets from select government handles that would go as text messages to those who are not its users.

The Twitter Samvad service will be powered by ZipDial, the Bengaluru-based marketing platform that was recently acquired by Twitter. People can make “missed calls” to selected phone numbers to receive the tweets as SMSs.

Sixteen Twitter accounts have been associated with the service, including @NarendraModi and @PMOIndia, the two handles used by the Prime Minister, @adgpi, the official handle of the media office of the defence ministry, @RailMinIndia, the handle of the railway ministry, and the handles of external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

The service would help Modi’s Digital India Initiative potentially reach more than 700 million mobile phone users, while Twitter’s own India base is estimated at around 33 million.

Users will receive a curated set of tweets throughout the day. In case of an emergency, government offices will be able to send “push messages” to people who have joined the service.

Modi spoke about avenues through which Twitter can help initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao not just by providing a platform but by initiating a prolonged effort to support them.

Modi asked Twitter to help promote India’s tourism potential and also talked about how the micro-blogging service can contribute in making the International Day of Yoga more vibrant.

“Twitter should tap into India’s linguistic diversity and offer services that would draw people from various linguistic backgrounds to Twitter,” Modi said, according to a statement posted on his official website.

Costolo said Twitter Samvad is based on Indian technological innovation and specially built for the world’s largest democracy. “As part of the Prime Minister's Digital India initiative, this tweet-powered service enables citizens to be the first to know about the government's actions by receiving political content in real-time on their mobile devices anywhere in the country," he said.

“It is increasingly clear that India is going to be a centre for innovation,” Costolo told a news conference, pointing to Twitter’s recent acquisition of Bangalore-based ZipDial that made a big business out of missed calls.

India’s young population is a “wonderful opportunity for Twitter to grow”, he added.

Twitter’s India market director Rishi Jaitly said, “We are quite proud to have partnered the Government of India this way."

Twitter, which has 284 million active users worldwide, earlier this month launched hashtags in Hindi. “JaiHind was a global trend and we plastered the walls of our San Francisco office with it,” Costolo said.

Facebook, which has over 100 million users in India, said last year that it was testing a service around the same theme, building on top of boosting efforts to bundle its app into cheap feature phones. Both Facebook and Twitter are aggressively courting numbers to become new-age advertising vehicles for brands.

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