Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India’s team started an online community so citizens can give input on the immediate and long-term priorities for the government.
The result has been truly amazing: over 40,000 Indian citizens from various backgrounds submitted their views, offering to contribute to the country’s future and identifying areas where the new government should focus its attention – from job creation to solving the problem of corruption and providing drinking water and food for all.
This is not the usual sloganeering, but a public that wants to engage with its government and is doing its bit to make it work better. In the coming month, this community plans to undertake a detailed review of each of the areas and root cause issues, and collectively develop solutions.
The use of technology and social media during Modi’s election campaign has been like none other. And if we use the same technology and social media to engage citizens and enable them to participate in governance, we have a transformational opportunity to shape India’s future. Let us seize this opportunity and engage with citizens through online communities at the national and local levels.
On the national front, we can assess the challenges citizens want addressed, crowdsource solutions and even engage citizen volunteers with the government to solve them. On the local front, by connecting citizens in a particular constituency and their elected representative in an online community, we can enable them to easily come together to work on common issues such as sanitation, safety, water or roads.
We could even take this approach to government departments by creating a citizen community for each one, allowing them to seek feedback on policies, issues, work done and areas in need of attention. Such an online community-based approach will encourage the government to work with citizens, empowering everyone to report, share and participate easily. It will also contribute to a more efficient government.
Some may express their reservations for adopting such a community-oriented, open governance model. However, we must educate, persist and still implement it. Over time, most will realize the value of staying connected with citizens, especially when they don’t have to spend as much in the next election to connect with their constituency.
Throughout India’s history, we have not had a citizen-oriented government. What Indians see different this time is a new leader who generates hope, has conviction, and the desire to serve and work together. That is driving the urge to participate.
If we can build on this foundation and positive momentum and engage our citizens with the government, we will be able to make Modi’s campaign slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (Collective Effort, Collective Progress) a reality.
Sachin Taparia is the Co-Founder and Chairman of LocalCircles
Image: A college girl gets her eye painted in tri-colours of India’s national flag on the eve of the country’s Independence Day celebrations in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ajay Verma