Top sources in the government confirmed that an orientation workshop for officers of the Indian Information Service which deals with the media and organises information about the government will be held at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in New Delhi at the end of the month. The subject: Social networking sites and how to work with them. The next step would be setting up social networking sites dealing with different ministries, said the source.
Signals that the government and political parties cannot ignore social networking sites anymore came early last year when India Against Corruption agitating for the anti-graft Jan Lokpal managed to organise huge crowds through their use. We were taken unawares by the working of social media sites, law minister Salman Khushid had said after the storm subsided. He had also said that the government would be working on ways to use these sites, but admitted, As a government, we have our limitations with regard to this.
Incidentally, a new information consultant Pankaj Pachauri has been hired by the PMO to help deal with new media and social networking sites. The PMO's Twitter account saw as many as 10,500 followers within a day of launch even though the tweets were just abbreviated press releases.
Brand guru Harish Bijoor says the PMO move has several reasons, one of which was the success of IAC in 'generating fizz'.
Social media is growing. There are about 120 million users of social media and I predict there would be around 320 million by December 2013. The government is basically following the old rule that if cant beat 'em, then join 'em, he says.
Governments and political parties have been traditionally disdainful of social media. During the election season and especially during voting, those queuing up outside polling booths in urban areas vastly outnumber those active on social networks. That is, however, no excuse to ignore them, says Bijoor.
There was a huge tumult created in society by a largely Net-based crowd, which went outside of the vote to create this noise. No government can ignore the noise-makers. Therefore, you have a differentiation between a voting power centre and a non-voting power centre. One creates the image, the other creates the structure of government, he adds.