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Source: Future Gov, October 1, 2012

Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, held the Indian government’s first ever Twitter session to interact with citizens on 25th September, to discuss public access to information.

The virtual conference, entitled ‘Democratisation of Information’ which Pitroda defined as “information access for everyone”, invited questions regarding the release of information by government departments, public information infrastructure, government initiatives in this field, and problems that participants could observe and foresee.

Pitroda’s opening tweets declared information to be the “fourth pillar of democracy” and highlighted some of the government’s achievements in increasing access to information. He also released a video briefing on Youtube. “The idea behind ‘Democratisation of Information’ is to create public information infrastructure in the country, and then put the right kind of information – relevant and timely – on the net for people to be able to access and work with,” Pitroda explained in the video.

During the session, participants discussed initiatives such as the recent move to connect 250,000 village councils to optic-fibre based Broadband, the newly launched open data portal, the National Knowledge Network, which aims to provide a “unified high speed network backbone for all knowledge related institutions in the country”, and use of ICT in courts of law to build ‘Courts of Tomorrow’.

Participants posed questions about these initiatives, problems in implementation and the future plans of the government. Questions came at a faster rate than Pitroda could answer, but several participants praised the use of Twitter to connect with citizens, and made suggestions to improve the experience in the future, such as having a larger team to support Pitroda in answering the high number of questions. Pitroda said he was “impressed at the energy of the young”, and promised another similar session soon.

The Twitter session was a follow-up to a press conference on ‘Democratisation of Information’ Pitroda held earlier this month to discuss the government’s ambitious “second-generation revolution” in governance. He announced that the central government is spending INR 1 trillion (US$18.9 billion) on the programme.

Pitroda highlighted public initiatives such as the national GIS programme of India, the development of a platform for cyber-security, computerisation of courts, prisons and police, the National Knowledge Network, and the massive Unique Identification Project of India during the press conference.

“What we are doing is an enormous task, but it will create a platform to deliver good governance in a country with a huge population. Once you get this platform, you will have to innovate to deliver better governance, better education, health and other services to the people,” Pitroda said.

Other branches of the Indian government are also recognising and using the power of social media to connect with younger citizens. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat state in India, answered questions from the public using live video chat on Google Plus. The Prime Minister’s Office has been using Twitter to communicate with citizens.

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