Indian Government seeks to recruit digital volunteers to polish its social media image

BigBrother-YourCountryNeedsYou_thumb.jpgTo say that the Indian government has only a few supporters in the social media is an understatement. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see the Information and Broadcasting division of the Government wanting to recruit digital volunteers to “talk about government schemes and programs”. Though a bit late, the government could surely use some help on social media.

On Friday, the department kicked off its MyIndia campaign to sign up digital volunteers.

Whats the deal?

According to the I&B Ministry’s blog:

The Digital Volunteer Programme is aimed at people who are keen to use their personal social presence on different  social media platforms to talk about Government schemes and programmes. Deeply rooted in the ideals of Participative Governance, the programme aims at helping the Government of India achieve a real time engagement with people leading to a personalized interaction with the target groups.

Eligibility?

You need to have an active Facebook and Twitter account and are used to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite etc. You need to have an active e-mail account and access to computer with Internet or smart phone and must be willing to use your personal presence to help the government spread a word about its policies and programs.

But then, who really wants to spend time on a social network spreading good word about a government which is being bashed by everyone else on the medium? And whats the incentive? Nation Building? That’s just, well..lets just say there are other meaningful ways to nation building than this.

The back story

After several “ham handed” attempts, the government and the ruling Congress have realized that to try and control social media is perhaps not the best way to go about it. Recently, the ruling congress party which has been facing ire in the online world for its previous attempts to muzzle freedom of speech on the Internet, asked key party members to submit their social media credentials. The party has had trouble with its members shooting off their mouths on social networking sites like Twitter and landing themselves square in the middle of controversy from time to time.

We’d written earlier about how it was perhaps the worst year online for the Indian government. It was at the receiving end of fierce criticism for various Internet related issues ranging from its clumsy response to the north east exodus, the overreaching section 66 of the Information Technology act which was misused to make arrests of people who made comments on social networks to the government’s initial stand on the United Nations Treaty to govern the Internet. Its proposed inter ministerial panel to handle Internet related issues and moves to monitor the Internet has also been criticized.

Many government websites were hacked and protesters also took to the street against government’s move to police the Internet. The Anonymous hacking group took down several government websites like that of the state run telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and also websites of ruling congress party members like Kapil Sibal.

The had also asked Army personnel to get off Facebook and issued guidelines for government departments on how to use social media.