Implementing Digital and Social Media Technologies for Redressal of Grievances

by June 20, 2018 0 comments

Implementing Digital and Social Media Technologies for Redressal of GrievancesGovernments across the world are now implementing digital and social media technologies to reach to the citizens easily and to redress their grievances on time.

Not too long ago a compelling photo of Karur District Collector T Anbazhagan having food with a poor woman Raakammal, earned him widespread praise for his kind act. On June 6, Deputy Commissioner of Rajouri, Shahid Chaudhry, posted a tweet: “Facing serious water crisis: Tankers pressed into action for 1.50 Lakh litre/day supply in scarce areas, Rs 25 lakh pumping machinery; hand pumps in villages to augment supply. Help us conserve.” Earlier on Sunday, the District Magistrate of Ghaziabad took to her Twitter handle and announced that in the wake of high pollution levels, water was being sprinkled across all major roads and construction materials were being covered, as well as fines levied. Welcome to the new India where administrators are increasingly embracing social media to bring about a paradigm shift in governance — call it social media governance — as some of these examples demonstrate.

The first instance depicts how a small act of outreach to a poor by a Collector can trigger unprecedented compassion. In the second case, the District Collector while informing people about the steps taken to address water scarcity is also urging them to consider water conservation. In the last example, the District Magistrate is updating citizens on steps taken to deal with air pollution while also informing that the errants are being penalised. What makes this unique is that the information is flowing directly from these young IAS officers to their audiences in real-time and without any mediation whatsoever of the erstwhile bureaucratic apparatus. Governments across the world are waking up to this new reality and the smarter ones are reacting faster.

Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Government brought together over 175 key officials from 56 departments in Lucknow for a two-day orientation programme on how to leverage the power of social media for propagating Government’s policies and programmes. To amplify the Government’s intent and exhort officials to embrace this dynamic platform expeditiously, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself addressed the participants.

Yogi said social media has become significant in wake of soaring aspirations of people and how tools like Facebook and Twitter provided opportunities for Government agencies to seamlessly connect and communicate with people. “It is also a vital tool to counter negativity and propaganda,” said Yogi Adityanath while advising officials to “appreciate the growing power of mobile phones and use it to reach out to the people at the last mile.” The Chief Minister also launched a unique social media hub that shall act as a centralised platform for a two-way communication with people addressing their grievances.

This certainly is a welcome change and has enormous implications both for governance and citizens’ confidence. While there are many successful experiments that are underway across the world on integrating use of social media in governance, one of the best case studies in India is that of the Ministry of Railways. The Ministry uses a 24×7 watch on citizens’ complaints and a resolution is often offered within hours. For a country that’s not particularly known for a responsive bureaucracy, this certainly is a welcome change.

The Uttar Pradesh Government’s Information Minister, Dr Neelkanth Tiwari echoed this when he reiterated the significance of social media for Government agencies in reaching out to common citizens. He highlighted how these platforms can serve as a powerful tool for soliciting citizen’s feedback, which in turn can be used to customise better delivery. Principal Secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi reiterated Government’s commitment and said that Uttar Pradesh can become a leading State in bringing about a revolution in governance using social media tools. “Engage with citizens, listen to them, address their grievances and take the message of development of the Prime Minister and Chief Minister to the masses,” he exhorted officials adding that, “You are the new India’s new change agents and social media, your new instruments of success.” Director of Information Dr Ujjwal Kumar said that in the new milieu of dynamic information flow and an ever vigilant citizen, it was imperative for Government officials to embrace social media.

While development has remained at the core of Government communication through the evolution of radio, television and newspapers, it has acquired a new dimension in a digitally-mediated world. It has brought about a paradigm shift in the way Governments can engage with citizens and encourage participatory governance. Little surprise, Governments across the world are embracing digital and social media technologies and using these for effective citizen outreach and redressal of grievances.

Social media has also brought about more transparency and efficiency and triggered a rare democratisation of information and empowerment of citizens. Uttar Pradesh has taken a concerted leap forward.

To be able to fully realise the vision of the Chief Minister, the Government shall have to work hard, and among others, bring about a massive cultural shift and reorientation of attitudes and behaviour of officers. A beginning is made, and the intent, says Awasthi is loud, “goal clear as crystal.”

(The writer is a strategic communications professional)

Writer: Navneet Anand

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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