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MIB proposes to strengthen govt-citizen interface

Initiative aimed to collate & analyze citizens’ views on govt. schemes

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MUMBAI: Months after a country-wide uproar and nudges from the judiciary forced the Indian government to shutter a Big Brother-type initiative involving tracking of Indians’ digital footprints, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is taking another shot to “understand citizen views expressed publicly in print, television, online and social media platforms”.

The primary stated aim of this new proposal is to help India’s federal government identify areas and issues that concern citizens and also help it in improving the communication system with regard to addressing citizens’ concerns, while creating awareness about various government initiatives, schemes and other important campaigns.

“Understanding of trends, topics, hashtags relevant to the government related activities; analysis of social media campaigns run by the government; understanding of social media sentiments, with indicators (topic) wise conversations and other references on the worldwide web” were some of the listed deliverables of the project.

At this juncture it’s not clear whether the new proposal is a watered-down version of the aborted social media hub of the MIB or purely a government-citizen interface to propagate government schemes.

According to a tender floated on 7 December 2018 by Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BECIL), proposals were invited for strengthening of the New Media Wing (NMW) of the MIB by providing solutions, software and services for an “integrated communication solution to include all digital public platforms (social media and online media) making use of existing infrastructure and resources” of the ministry wherever possible.

BECIL is an organisation under MIB that was set up in the 1990s and provides project consultancy services and turnkey solutions encompassing the entire gamut of radio and television broadcast engineering like content production facilities, terrestrial transmission facilities, satellite and cable broadcasting facilities in India and abroad. It also provides other allied services.

The tender document, available on BECIL’s website, further states that the successful bidder would be required to “possess capabilities to study multiple public platforms in order to facilitate creating a comprehensive view of various focus areas of the government”.

Apart from this, the vendor should have relevant expertise and capability to provide communication insights to the MIB on how to improve the government’s communication and to create citizen-engaging content for various media and social media campaigns.

“Also, it should provide feedback on various government schemes and suggest steps for its improvement...[and] such a system should provide for a comprehensive feedback reporting system to understand various aspects of traditional and social media communication and help formulate strategies for betterment of the integrated communication of the NMW.

“The setup should be real time and have multi language capabilities,” the tender document states.

The deadline for finding a vendor is listed as year-end with other pre-bid meetings to be held before that.

On the issue of the hyped up Social Media Hub, MIB Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore earlier in the year had tried to allay fears on surveillance and privacy violations by the government. Subsequently, a case was filed in the Supreme Court by a politician from West Bengal alleging that the government was set to unleash an intrusive surveillance era. With the apex court questioning the motives, MIB had announced in August it was closing down the proposal.

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