I am no social media addict. But when I read about our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acquiring a Twitter handle (@PMOIndia), I logged on to my Twitter account and started following him. I also began following some other Indian politicians (surprisingly, there are quite a few of them on Twitter; and they tweet rather frequently).
It's a nice feeling to be connected to the head of a State in whatever little way that one can, and also to know his views such as those on coalition politics.
Social media is such powerful tool. For instance, if you face a problem with a company--its product or service is not up to the mark--and tweet about it, most reputed companies get back to you and try to address the issue.
But the scope to use the social media can be a lot wider than that. And it is definitely not being used effectively.
One of the best uses, in my view, is to improve our democratic system. Social media is a great tool to know what the citizens want and evolve a more effective model of governance.
The first thought that crossed my mind was that of TRP ratings used in India. TRP stands for target rating point (or TRP) and is an audience measurement criterion of rating points that indicate the popularity of a television channel or program. As a first step "people meters" are installed in sample homes. People meters are electronic devices, which continuously record data about the TV channels watched by household members.
The TRP ratings tell TV channels and advertisers what programs people like and what channels they watch. Accordingly, the advertisers place their ads with TV channels.
While this may not be the best analogy and TRP ratings may not be the best means of gauging audience preferences, the world of IT offers several tools to reduce misuse and anomalies of all kinds. And it's cost-effective too.
Just imagine, if you had a (secure) social media account that allowed you to vote on a host of issues that bothered you about your neighborhood, city, state and the nation, wouldn't you access it to cast your vote? Such voting could save so much time--our Parliament would not need to debate, otherwise, for years.
How about having ratings for each move of the government--at local, state and national level?
Well, not everyone can be qualified to vote on each issue. But then what stops us from setting criterions for choosing people who are eligible to vote on issues such as legal matters, economic, environmental, social or political issues?
Once you have citizen representatives who cast their online vote on issues and provide us their ratings on a host of issues ranging from global affairs to politics, economics, society, regulations, laws, and so on, it would become so much easier to take decisions for the Indian Parliament. For, it's not easy to go against public opinion.
Also, I don't see coalition politics taking us very far. It is a bane on India's growth and development.
But somewhere, we are all scared of transparency. Then again, there is no way out. In this digital age, the more you try and shy away from technology, social media, e-government, and so on, the more your society begins to decay. And at some point, the stink will get unbearable--if it hasn't already.