Friday, December 24, 2010

IT and Governance: Role of Technology in Winning Elections in India


IT and Governance: Role of Technology in Winning Elections in India
Arun Bhardwaj - Bangalore
(Arun Bhardwaj is Director of Marketing with a MNC in Bangalore; and very passionate about encouraging competency based governance. You can find more about him at www.arunb.com or by writing to him at arunb@arunb.com)
India is becoming increasingly e-connected. Internet connectivity has increased from 5.5M in 2004 to 22M in 2010. Wireless Internet connectivity via mobile devices has increased from 31M in 2007 to 120M in 2010. In India, 61% of total population now has telephone connectivity; and by 2013, 75% of the population is expected to be tele-connected. Added to these statistics is the fact that 35% of India's population is between the age of 15 and 35 i.e. age when people are better adopter of latest trends and technology. That means a large electorate is already e-connected or would be connected soon. It is important to monitor this changing face of e-India because this transformation may establish efficient usage of Information Technology (IT) as a crucial factor in winning future elections.

Looking at these statistics in the light of multi-dimensional capabilities IT tools and services can provide; it is reasonable to believe that IT will play a crucial role in any future election at the panchayat, district, state or national level.

Like any other tool with immense power, IT also can help those who understand how to effectively use it in politics; and hurt those who mishandle or ignore IT. The effect either way can get magnified during the election times.

First, let us see how IT can provide significant advantage in winning elections:

It is becoming increasingly important to maximize resource utilization i.e. to enhance & maximize favorable electoral response to our sincere efforts with reasonable spent in the given time constraint. For that, we need effective communication of achievements and progress in a timely manner. We also need capability to do targeted campaigns. Considering the growing emphasis on connecting every Panchayat via Internet, and mobile phones becoming a modern necessity, it would be critical to have a well thought IT-Strategy to win future elections.

When we think of IT, sometimes many of us constrain our thinking to sending emails or SMSs; or launching web pages. Recent trends in various countries have shown very effective use of IT in e-fundraising at the grass-root level; communicating party's stand uniformly, centralized control over data and information, uniform branding and targeted invites for rallies etc. Think of a scenario where some controversy gets triggered at a national level when a state is going through elections, and someone asks you about your party’s stand on the controversy; everyone will have their own parochial views. But with the IT communication infrastructure in place, top leaders can communicate a united stand to even grass root leaders in a very short time.

Social media sites can be utilized by party supporters to grow sympathizers. E-campaigning stays active even during the last 24 hours of elections when no other mode of campaigning is allowed. YouTube and podcasts are very effective methods of delivering direct personalized messages by the leaders very quickly. Even if initially all this is relevant to the urban population, at least party leadership can communicate with key people effectively. All these techniques improve a party's brand image, increases effectiveness / efficiency of operations; and the best part is - at a reduced cost. 

Now let us look at the side-effect of growing IT popularity in cyber-campaigning.

What you say or said against you spreads very fast & stays on net for years. So if someone changes a stand or his / her values; it can haunt candidates for years. People can spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about candidates very quickly; and it has influenced election results in many places in the world.

Therefore, in the future elections, it would be essential to have a well thought of IT-strategy part of the election win planning. It is also very important that candidates and party leaders at all levels are familiar with the "WHY, HOW, WHEN & WHAT" of utilizing IT tools in politics – especially in cyber-campaigning.

As the world is becoming e-connected; and India is catching up with the trend - IT will have a major role to play so that political parties are able to tame the power of technology by utilizing all potential benefits; along with avoiding all pitfalls or harmful effects by employing well thought cyber-strategy. 

In the future, those who avoid technology will miss out on its benefits YET not stay immune to its side effects.

As a citizen, my hope is that cyber-campaigning will enhance information transparency and eventually reduce cost of contesting elections. If that happens, we might be able to nip the corruption evil in the bud, which takes its first breath with election fund raising.   

1 comment:

arunkumar said...

You are right.Now politicians should know the importance of this and those who know about it should start working on it. Though it takes time for politicians to adopt but once adopted politicians can reach people in no time!
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I was born in the lap of Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh) in the home of educationalists. I grew up in an environment where asking questions was encouraged; and curiosity was considered foundation to enlightenment. I dedicate all my learning in life to those who encouraged me in my quest to “figure things out” and responded to my curiosities. Spiritual orientation helps me to accept possibilities beyond the realm of logic.