Friday, 3 January 2014

Being Digitally Literate! #VoteForIndia


2014 elections are as important for India as it can be. On the verge of civil war and economic instability, people are looking for good governance. Youth, social media and grass root level campaigning play a very important. Hence, we need to find ways to campaign so that we can cover a good area to make people aware about 2014 elections and its importance.

There is huge potential of nurturing a symbiotic relationship between social media and mainstream media to elevate the overall standards of journalism and reporting. This synergy must be strengthened further in a manner that the two mediums supplement, rather than isolate, each other. Cut beneath the clutter and the abuses, and one can find a wealth of intellect out in the World Wide Web. And that too, free of cost.

We must inspire the youth to participate in the process of nation-building through social media. The generation is already well versed with technology, apps and smart phones. It is high time we exploit it. 4Cs of social media are Content, Collaboration, Community and Collective Intelligence. Taken together, these four themes constitute the value system of social media. 

With the general elections round the corner in India, politicians and common people alike have to realize how important social media is a powerful tool for canvassing. The survey, Social Media in India – 2013 was conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). It goes on to say something we’ve all known for a while now – as far as urban seats are concerned, social media usage is sufficiently widespread to influence politics. The elections are behind most of the buzz being caused across social networking websites and a report has now shown that these sites are likely to swing over 3 percent votes in the upcoming 2014 elections. 

2014 General Election in India will be the biggest ever general election and a phenomenon to watch for because it will be the first election in India after internet being accessible to 'aam junta' or every literate tech savvy citizen, to be precise.

From 173 million voters 50 years ago, the number of voters in India has now grown to 670 million, making us the largest electorate in the world. Also, it is estimated that 100+ million Indians spend 16 hours online per week. Indian users are growing in multiples in each and every social networking site.


Using social apps, we must initiate programs that help public get to know the candidates better, enabling them to make informed choices, instead of falling for cheap tactics. Rule 49-O is an election rule that allows candidates to register a null vote, rejecting all candidates. Many people aren’t even aware that they have this option! This is where social mobile apps can be put to use to lay a bare mechanism for voting.


So, a discussion on the status of political parties in the social media scenario, how they are campaigning their propagandas is important to reach the masses. You may have 'liked' pictures posted by friends, helpful websites, products, services and celebrities using your social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. You have also felt that when your friend likes some website you feel an urge to visit that. But ever thought of using Social Media for garnering votes for your favorite party or leader in the next General Election 2014? Have you ever felt that by liking or sharing a photo or a witty status update on Facebook you will be actually promoting or supporting a political party or your favorite leader to win the next General Election 2014?


However, the internet presence of the party is an important factor. There have to be good leaders without criminal background or intention and who can actually deliver. So, social media campaign should be a catalyst in projecting and bringing out the best to the limelight. Various platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp can be exploited. Use of mobile, apps, emails along with websites will up the media campaign. Using crowd sourcing means to influence on the voters is another way out. Crowd sourcing is to use online communities to ensure a party’s or a leader’s visibility to the internet users.


Until recently, the campaign strategies of political parties centered on public rallies, and print, television and radio advertising. But the proliferation of Internet, computers and smart phones in the past few years has prompted politicians to look at the potential of the online medium. The country has almost 165 million Internet users, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. So if the parties have to woo voters then they much reach to this population. And to reach such a large population, there is no other way out than the internet and social media. There is no harm even if the parties target anyone above 15 years of age, because while they cannot vote yet, they are active on social media and are definitely influencers. Netizens do make a difference! Digital media strategies should be a part of the overall campaign briefs, and parties should spend time and resources to mobilize netizens.


India is not the only country where political parties are using social media for campaigning. US President Barack Obama's campaign team effectively used social media during the presidential elections in 2008 and again in 2012. Indian politicians are now catching up. While top Congress leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, seen as a prime ministerial candidate, have been reluctant to adopt social media, some other party members are actively into Facebook and Twitter.

Tharoor, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, is one of the earliest adopters of Twitter among politicians and has over 1.9 million followers. Milind Deora, Minister of State for Communications, Information Technology and Shipping, is another prolific tweeter. The two-time parliamentarian from South Mumbai, a high impact constituency according to IRIS, was the first Congress leader to tweet against the infamous ordinance that would have allowed convicted lawmakers to contest elections, just a day before Rahul Gandhi called the ordinance "complete nonsense".

Arguably the savviest politician when it comes to social media is the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. He has over 2.6 million Twitter followers, 5.5 million Facebook 'likes', his own website and even a team of professionals managing his social media strategy. Modi isn't an exception in the BJP. Overall, the BJP is ahead of the Congress in the social media race. Many BJP leaders communicate with party workers through BlackBerry messenger groups, WeChat and WhatsApp.




Besides the BJP and the Congress, another party that is effectively using social media is the Aam Aadmi Party. The party owes its genesis to the India Against Corruption campaign of 2011. The movement galvanized middle-class people by asking them to give a missed call to register their support. This helped prepare a database of phone numbers that can be used to spread its messages. The party recently raised more than Rs 20 lakh after its convener Arvind Kejriwal took part in a Google Hangout chat with non-resident Indians. The party owes its survival to digital media.


What makes social media different from traditional forms of campaigning is that it is two-way communication. Social media allows the audience to talk back. It is cheaper, too. Digital media empowers the citizens to ask questions and demand answers. It influences opinions and pushes leaders to be transparent. Social media companies are also doing their bit to raise political awareness among people. Facebook has launched a "Register to Vote" initiative, while Twitter is offering a service where users can follow someone through a missed call or text message. Digital media promises to be a game-changer in the upcoming elections.

Social media is the pulse of what the nation feels. They give a platform where a person writes whatever he feels, his inclination towards political parties ideologies. "There are 160 high impact constituencies out of the total of 543 constituencies, which are likely be influenced by social media during the next general elections," the study by IRIS Knowledge Foundation and Internet and Mobile Association of India has said.

I believe that what leaders think and how they work is clearer through these social media networks. It is an indication of the thought process and helps a voter to understand the working of their political strata. It helps us to research about the candidates and then vote. It acknowledges the importance of voice of an Indian.

We have seen our leaders in YouTube videos. YouTube came into existence in 2005. Indians started viewing these videos. Content was building up. Today we have all major Indian television networks and many independent people storing millions of hours worth videos on YouTube for Indian viewers. From political viewers to happy time passers all view YouTube videos at ease. 

 Transparency in Elections
Social mobile apps can be used to provide real-time information to voters on election news, leader profiles, quotes from candidates and polling booth venues tapped on Google Maps, allowing users to search for information specific to their constituencies, an outlet for youth to voice their opinion about the elections and also design an election monitoring platform which allows users to contribute SMS, e-mail and web reports on general elections. This will increase transparency and accountability and will help to tackle the problem of information asymmetry, thus allowing users to make a more informed choice.


Image Courtesy: Google
P.S: This post is written for the ‘Indian General Elections 2014 with social mobile apps’ contest by WeChat powered by Indiblogger. For more details: http://www.indiblogger.in/topic.php?topic=96

The Topic: How would you inspire and mobilize India's youth to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps?

Also, my Day 3 at Ultimate Blogging Challenge :D

8 comments:

  1. Couldn't have written better myself. Keep writing Aysh :)

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    1. Aw! That's too sweet of you, thank you Rafaa :)

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  2. Oh my one of the best written ones I read today on this topic :D

    Best of luck sweety :)

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    1. Sacchi Namrota?
      Thank you sooo much! :*

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  3. fancier writeup .. all the very best :)

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