MUMBAI : Indian politicians, like Indians everywhere, are becoming digitally savvy. Several politicians are now using Twitter, WhatsApp and emails to interact with citizens and publicize their work.

In theory, these platforms provide an important mechanism for politicians to address concerns in their constituencies. However, in reality, an increase in digital participation has not yet led to greater digital governance, suggests a new study.

In a digital experiment, Milan Vaishnav and others found that few Indian members of Parliament (MPs), across both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, responded to email requests pertaining to constituency services.

Ahead of the experiment, the authors discovered that most MPs have working email addresses (727 out of 786 MPs). In the experiment itself, they sent emails to MPs posing as fictitious constituents inquiring about the MP’s quota for admissions into a constituency’s Kendriya Vidyalaya, the school run by the central government. The quota allows MPs to nominate 10 residents from their constituency for Kendriya Vidyalaya admission every year.

Of the 727 emails sent, the researchers only received 69 responses (10%), of which just 40 were classified as helpful. The authors highlight that this response rate is much lower than in other countries but in line with response rates to SMS and WhatsApp requests from similar experiments conducted in India.

The study also found that Lok Sabha MPs are five times more likely to respond to such requests than Rajya Sabha MPs. A party-wise analysis shows that response rate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs was slightly above the national average at 13%, while that of Congress MPs was the lowest at 6%. To improve these response rates and facilitate better governance, the authors suggest that the government’s Digital India campaign should streamline official communication systems for MPs.

Also read: Digital India? an email experiment with Indian Legislators

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