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Sam Pitroda's Twitter conference: Government for democratisation of information

Source: Times of India, September 25, 2012

NEW DELHI: After the government faced criticism for so-called censorship of Internet, a key advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sam Pitroda, on Tuesday took to Twitter to answer queries on how information can be "democratized".

"I firmly believe that information is the fourth pillar of democracy along with legislature, executive and judiciary," was Pitroda's opening remark during an online conference.

When Pitroda started taking questions, TOI asked a question through its Twitter account (@timesofindia).

"Why is internet access, which is a basic right in many countries, so expensive in India," TOI asked.

Pitroda blamed shortage bandwidth for high prices. "Hopefully prices will go down as we get more broadband capacity and OFC to Panchayats," he tweeted back.

Twitter and other social networks are gaining popularity as media platforms for politicians to express their views on various issues. Recently, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had a live chat with people on 'Google Plus Hangout'.

"Information brings about openness, accessibility, transparency, accountability, networking, decentralization and as a result democratization," Pitroda tweeted using the #DoI handle.

Information is power and not many wish to share. Info is critical for development and needs to be timely available to people, he added.

Pitroda has 28,611 followers on Twitter.

Batting for the UPA government, Pitroda tweeted that "UPA government has various plans to build robust Information Infrastructure to democratize information on a scale that has never been done before ... UPA government also has political will to make it happen."

He added that this will have far reaching implications on delivery of public services, governance, education, health and agriculture among other sectors.

Pitroda said the public information infrastructure (PII) will include a national knowledge network, connecting 1,500 nodes for universities, colleges, research labs and libraries.

It will also connect 2.5 lakh panchayats in the country through fibre optics.

Pitroda added that the whole idea of PII is to provide a backbone to Right to Information (RTI). "We have the open government platform at will provide access to govt. data and documents," he tweeted but added that certain sensitive information will have to be controlled by the government.

The Department of Electronics and IT had recently issued guidelines for government agencies on improving engagement with citizens through social media.

The session received mixed response for the audience. A tweet on the site read: "Typical Sarkari press meet! Reminds of Mayawati durbar. All tough questions going to be avoided. That's #DoI for you!", while another seemed to hail the step in the right direction saying "Nice to see Sam Pitroda interacting on twitter. And that's why I think social media is superior. Can be used in various ways.

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