Top Cabinet ministers will soon chat with the public on the government’s own version of Google Hangouts as part of a new social-media communication plan of a regime focused on getting its message across.
Ministers will hold forth on a platform called Talkathon, where they will take live questions on Twitter and Youtube.
Although many politicians are popular on social media, the officialdom had not fully leveraged its potential. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the government’s “communicator-in-chief”, things are changing.
The government’s new “360-degree” communication policy, anchored in the information and broadcasting ministry, gives social media the status of an “official media unit”, alongside traditional ones such as state-run TV and radio.
The focus is exactly where more and more Indians are headed for information: the hand-held device. All government websites are being overhauled to make them mobile compatible. According to a new report by consultancy firm KPMG, India has about 214 million Internet users, of which 61% access the net on their phones. This figure is likely to cross 300 million in just three years.
Ministries are also being asked to come out with android apps and e-books.
Despite its publicity push, however, the Modi government has received flak for curbing information. The Editors’ Guild of India had recently criticised the Centre’s communication strategy as “top-down, one-way”. Social media “cannot be the only answer…debate, dialogue and discussion are essential,” the body had said.
The government’s traditional media units too are incessantly tweeting and posting messages. Social media sites of Doordarshan, the broadcast ministry, All India Radio, DD News and Press Information Bureau now command a total follower base of 45 lakhs.