In February of this year, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India introduced a digital volunteer program. Officially titled “My India Initiative-A Digital Volunteer Programme“, the project will make use of citizens “personal social presence of different social media platforms to talk about Government schemes and programmes.” Qualifications for volunteers include proficiency in Facebook and Twitter, regular e-mail use, access to the internet, and willingness to aid the government in spreading information about its policies. Volunteers are encouraged to retweet messages from the twitter handle @MIB_India, and share via facebook and blog posts news from government sites. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting aims to connect with, engage and inform the younger generation through this program.
The program was announced on the Ministry’s Blog on February 8th, 2013. Many readers commented on the program. Most had positive feedback, stated that they believed the program would be influential in increasing good governance. Many were excited to participate.
There may be challenges to monitor posts and ensure the credibility of the volunteer. Not necessarily in this case, but I wonder about the ethics of enlisting civilians in a virtual publicity team. This sort of program could be a tool for government propaganda or cover-up, just as it offers the possibility of increased transparency. I anticipate the greatest benefit of such a program would be a politically engaged youth, eager to participate in online debate.