Home >politics >policy >Narendra Modi launches Twitter Samvad

New Delhi: Dick Costolo, chief executive of Twitter Inc., met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, becoming the latest senior executive of a multinational company to explore ways to collaborate with the government’s Digital India mission and consequently increase its user base and business prospects.

“Great meeting with @narendramodi this afternoon in Delhi!" tweeted @dickc after the San Francisco-based company, which has a little over 35 million users in India, launched a tweet-enabled digital governance service called Twitter Samvad, which means Twitter dialogue, as a part of the Digital India initiative.

The service is “aimed at boosting the nation’s e-governance plans by helping government bodies and leaders communicate directly with citizens on a daily basis via tweets and SMS on their mobile devices", said a company press statement on Tuesday.

“Based on Indian technological innovation, Twitter Samvad is dedicated and specially built for the largest democracy of the world," said Costolo, who is visiting India for the first time.

Twitter Samvad, according to the company, will deliver a set of curated tweets from the government and leaders’ accounts every day to mobile users across the country via SMS. In addition, updates on government services, policies and activities can be delivered to any user with a mobile device without a data plan.

Anybody can sign up for the service by giving a missed call to a unique number from a list of 16 such unique numbers and get the tweets from the accounts of government personnel or government bodies, including the personal accounts of Narendra Modi.

Modi, who joined Twitter in January 2009 and has become the second-most followed politician in the world with 10.9 million followers after US President Barack Obama with 56.9 million, rolled out the service. “Let’s deepen our connect! Give a missed call on 011 3006 3006 and get my tweets on your mobile as SMS," Modi tweeted.

Twitter Samvad, according to the press statement, can also be used to deliver live updates by government bodies, including time-sensitive information such as law and order situations as well as details about any rescue efforts. It is based on the platform provided by ZipDial, an Indian company acquired by Twitter in January, which makes it the company’s first Indian service launched using indigenous technology.

According to Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, infrastructure and government services, at consulting firm KPMG in India, “any form of communication is good in a country where still a large number of people do not have connectivity".

“Citizens who do not have Internet access will also be able to receive messages from the government leaders and agencies. However, at the same time, it will curate tweets from a group of selected people and send those as SMSes. This defies the whole social media concept, which is to provide a level-playing field to all so that no one party can exert its influence over others," said Bhattacharya.

He also wondered “why the government is going in a roundabout way and doing it through Twitter, a US company which comes under the US jurisdiction and is not answerable to Indian law, when the government could have facilitated the same communication through Indian service providers".

This, according to Bhattacharya, “just adds to Twitter’s valuation and gives it more power in India".

Digital India, nevertheless, is proving to be a magnet for global technology companies. It is Modi’s ambitious programme that clubs e-governance, Internet access for all and electronics manufacturing.

On 15 September, Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president at Google Inc. who handles the company’s Chrome, apps and Android business, was in India to promote the company’s low-cost Android One smartphones. A couple of weeks later, Jeff Bezos, president, chief executive and chairman of the board of the world’s largest online retailer Amazon.com Inc., visited the country on 28 September.

This was followed by the visit of Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft Corp., on 30 September. And on 9 October, Facebook Inc. chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hinted at ways his company could take the Internet to the “more than billion people who are still not connected".

Facebook has close to 110 million of its 1.32 billion users in India, and more than 50 million Indian users are on its messaging service WhatsApp.

A stable government with a technology-focused growth agenda is boosting technology adoption in the domestic market, software lobby body Nasscom said in its Strategic Review 2015 report published in February.

It added that government investments in technology of $26 billion in financial year 2014-15 is driving demand in the domestic market.

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