While the use of social networks in India is growing rapidly, latest data indicates that only 55% or 45 million people of the total Internet population in the country uses Facebook for example (see http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/india#chart-intervals, a number that represents a very small portion of the population.
This was certainly not the case when the Indian Government draft its first policy document of the use of Social Media in the public sector (the draft is here: http://www.mit.gov.in/sites/upload_files/dit/files/SocialMediaFrameworkDraftforPublicConsultation_192011.pdf). The document is quite comprehensive and non-prescriptive as it is essentially trying to set the “rules of the game” for public institutions and public servants that want to use social media a a new communication channel to inform and interact with stakeholder and people in general. While the document is trying to debunk the apparent fear that many institutions in the country have on social media, it also warns users of the policy and wok implications in doing so.
As mentioned before the document is a draft that was made public with the intention of getting feedback from both public sector as well as civil society in general. The consultation process has now ended – I believe it closed last week.
Earlier in the week, I spoke to an official of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of India who has been directly involved in the drafting of the document as well as in the consultations process. Among the many things mentioned, the official told me that one of the most reiterated and debated question in the consultation process was the use of private foreign platforms by India’s public institutions, platforms that do not acknowledge Indian laws and are thus not directly accountable to the national government -nor to end users. Many suggested the creation of a national platform (not clear if public or private or both) to address this issue. This view was complemented by the fact that most if not all foreign platforms do not support most of the 20 or so official languages of the country.
Needless to say, there is no easy answer to this question as creation a new platform will need resources in addition to facing “competition” with already popular platforms. On the governance side, issues of privacy, confidentially and security of users data and public information also popped up during the consultations.
As I kept asking more questions, the official suggested that I send, on behalf of UNDP, an official request to them asking for all relevant information on the policy and the consultation process. Apparently, everything has been documented and can be made available upon request.
My idea is to use the India “model” as a god practice for other developing countries that are starting to think about this and are looking for comparative experiences.