In an uber-connected world, why should a government stay out? The just-launched Twitter Samvad seems to be the perfect vehicle for governments (and government organisations) to expand their reach among citizens. The platform, developed by ZipDial, an Indian company that was acquired by Twitter, will send out a set of curated tweets—at the moment for 16 partners, including PM Modi, the chief ministers of West Bengal,
Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat, the railway ministry and the Bengaluru City Police—as SMSs to citizens. Twitter Samvad, especially for the Modi government, builds on the many platforms being made available to facilitate direct communications of the government with the citizens. Users need to give a missed call on a specified number for the service to be activated.
Given the reach of mobile telephony in India, it would be perhaps a very effective way of broad-basing dissemination of news and advisories from the government. It would capture the section of the Indian population that isn’t connected to the internet. Imagine what it could do in times of emergencies and natural disasters! And as the prime minister noted in an official statement, the service can be a powerful tool to sustain popular support for social welfare initiatives such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. There will always be the potential for an information glut, sure; but that can be taken care of by being discerning enough to know what would make for relevant information for the average citizen and what would be seen as political spamming.