Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Social Media Black-box for Indian Bureaucrats: How Nirupama Rao can help

ONE social media study of public diplomacy undertaken recently at George Washington University, placed India’s ambassador to US Nirupama Rao at the top of the chart among all diplomats and missions based out of Washington DC. As the research study itself says, Rao is “doing something right” to woo a huge number of followers. But, have the other Indian civil servants treated the technology associated with social media as a “black-box” and…
gone around it and explore the opportunities? An Indian government paper released on April 21 as a part of Civil Services Day, talks about how social media can help Indian civil servants to consult and engage with the public, increase the impact of their communications and be more transparent and accountable. “If used effectively, social media can help in enhancing policy making and service delivery”, the paper says. 
But the paper released by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) also cautioned Indian civil servants of the risks and challenges associated with social media. It then gives a glimpse of UK government’s social media guidelines published in May 2012 and urges Indian bureaucrats to follow those while venturing into Twitter or Facebook etc.
Here are some of those tips:
a) Communicate with citizens in the places they already are.
b) Use social media to consult and engage.
c) Use social media to be more transparent and accountable.
d) Be a part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings.
e) Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation.
f) Adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline).
But how will senior Indian bureaucrats jump into the social media bandwagon simply because the government wants them to venture into? Is there any formal training or exposure to technology? The government paper has hailed head of British civil services Sir Bob Kerslake who himself is an avid user of Twitter and had specially requested his team to remove the technological challenges so that civil servants would be able to access social media.
Why not Nirupama Rao be invited by the DARPG to conduct a special Twitter session for technologically-challenged senior Indian bureaucrats? Here is what the research conducted by Jeanette Gaida as a part of a project at George Washington University says about Rao: “Clearly she is doing something right on Twitter that she was able to gain that many followers in such a short amount of time. A quick glance at her account shows that she tweets consistently, which is crucial to acquiring and maintaining followers, and that she was on Foreign Policy Magazine’s list of 100 Womerati…”
It’s the time Indian bureaucrats explore the social media black-box.

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