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TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: Campaigning (Part 2)

February 10th, 2004 · No Comments

By making available all the relevant information on the Internet, we are ensuring that the limitations posed by traditional channels and media is overcome. It is not easy for newspapers, magazines, radio and TV channels to drill down to the constituency-level in providing information and updates. This is where the Internet with its infinite capacity to store and deliver information can play a key role. An extension of this role lies in facilitating interaction between citizens.

Discussion forums and personal (or group) weblogs can help frame the issues and arguments at the local and national level. For those who have little time to go for political rallies, the Internet can be a sounding board for airing their views on topics that are of concern. Of course, care has to be taken that these discussions do not just become slander matches between supporters of different candidates. This is where the ability to use wikis and weblogs and provide RSS feeds of the updates can get just the information that the voters want into their news aggregators.

An important aspect of any democracy is the role of the media. In India, in the past five years, a multitude of powerful TV channels have emerged and coverage of issues has also become much more strident. As literacy rates have increased, newspapers and magazines too have seen their circulations increase. Media can play a strong role in influencing public opinion. All media coverage should be made available on the Internet with RSS providing the update streams. In addition, trackback can be used to facilitate two-way flow of information.

The Internet can also be used by the political parties for two additional purposes: fund raising and managing the field force. Individuals can contribute to campaigns via electronic payment systems this can give a major boost to eCommerce in India! An Intranet can be leveraged by political parties to co-ordinate the activities of the various individuals at the field level across states. Internal bulletin boards and weblogs can help distill trends emerging from the grassroots. Learnings of whats working (and whats not) can quickly be disseminated to the rank and file via email, IM and SMS.

For the voters, the Internet can thus work as a source of information and interaction. It can also be used to create games on the lines of an Indian Political Stock Exchange much like the way the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX.com) helps predict the collections of movies. I can imagine many corporates willing to sponsor this to make elections fun, exciting and rewarding for everyone!

Applying the twin open-source software principles of distributed collaboration and user customisability, there is thus a potential to build a rich platform for information aggregation and distribution via the Internet, making for an election campaign which is more transparent and interactive. That is also the secret to getting Indias youthful population more involved in a decision that will shape the nations future.

Tomorrow: Counting


TECH TALK Technology and the Indian Elections+T

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