Govt hashtags new era, holds press meet on twitter
Sam Pitroda, the man who brought telecom revolution to India in the 1980s, added a new chapter to the way public information is disseminated when he held a press conference on social networking site twitter on September 25, answering queries on “democratisation of information”.
Going by the public response, it was a huge success. Hundreds of queries flowed in on Pitroda’s twitter page as the press meet start at 3.30 pm and continued for over the next 45 minutes. He was overwhelmed by the public response, which included people other than media persons and tweeted that he was “impressed by the enthusiasm of Young India”.
Given the UPA’s recent confrontations with the social media, it was natural that a lot of questions related to internet censorship were asked. To which, he responded by tweeting, "Certain sensitive information will have to be controlled by the government” but did not expand it. To a question about RTI not being effective and that the bureaucrats were “killing the whole system”, Pitroda sounded optimistic. “The time is to act now. I am sure they will change,” he tweeted.
But soon things seem to fall apart as Pitroda was not able to answer many queries because the rules of the game had not been defined. This was understandable but the chaotic situation that it caused was not to the liking of the twitterati. Some of them had to repeat their questions several times to get answers. Many suggested that Pitroda should reply in the same conversation thread to make people understand as to which question he was responding to, but he couldn’t do it.
To make matters worse, Pitroda gave links to various government websites, rather than answering the queries specifically. When some tweeple protested, he ignored them. Nevertheless, he provided hope that there would be more of twitter conferences in future by signing off with “we should do it more often”.
This first ever conference on twitter marks a paradigm shift in the government’s approach and comes as a pleasant surprise. A few days ago, Kapil Sibal, the union minister for information technology and communications, was sceptical about the use of social media by the government. In an interview to Governance Now, he explained the difficulty by saying, “….you must understand that any information that comes from government – in today’s environment of suspicion – is taken with a pinch of salt. So governments have never been able to respond to the freewheeling social media”. (See interview on page 56.)
He would have hardly foreseen the advisor to the prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovation (PIII) holding a press conference on the social media so soon.