NATIONAL

Smart Cities ping the most on MyGov

Forty-five per cent of all discussion posts on the MyGov platform — a social network built around governance issues — were about Smart Cities.

The platform, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2014, functions under the aegis of the Union Communications and Information Technology Ministry.

At present, MyGov has around 35 lakh registered users. In the two years of its existence, there have been 582 discussions posts on the platform, garnering around 34 lakh comments.

However, the activity and engagement on posts is not uniformly distributed. Of the 582 posts on the MyGov website, 32 posts account for 72 per cent of all comments on the platform. Half the posts got fewer than 500 comments. In fact, 30 per cent of the posts have fewer than 100.

There are three major elements in getting traction on the platform, Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO of MyGov, told The Hindu .

First, promotion of the said campaign by the Ministry concerned. Second, the attractiveness of the subject to the citizen. Third, the willingness of citizens to devote time to the campaign and share their thoughts and ideas.

For instance, only 10 posts got more than a lakh comments, all asking for suggestions from citizens for drafting the ‘Smart City proposal’ for their cities. Posts on Bhopal, Kanpur, Allahabad, Indore and Jhansi gathered more than 1.5 lakh suggestions as comments.

“For the 98 shortlisted smart cities, there was a component of citizen feedback and engagement in the selection criteria for the next round. Plus, there were marks for quality of citizen engagement,” Mr. Dwivedi said. In places where municipal commissioners were more tech savvy, more traffic and engagement was observed, he added.

Forty-eight posts on MyGov platform were setup to identify 50 public buildings (in each city) that were frequently used by persons with disabilities and should be converted into fully accessible buildings. But this crowdsourcing campaign, launched by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, received a lacklustre response. Only the post for the city of Bhopal got over 800 comments. 40 posts concerning other cities got fewer than 10 comments.

MyGov is experimenting with various other structures and methods for engaging citizens – apart from discussions – depending on the requirement of various ministries. Citizens are asked to take up real life tasks in the “do” section, information regarding work done by various Ministries is disseminated via blogs and infographics, polls and surveys are conducted for various issues.

Mr. Dwivedi said it was difficult to quantify and create metrics for citizen engagement. “It is not easy to set targets like the number of people who should be active on the platform. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, we have to evoke responses as participation on MyGov is voluntary,” he said. It is easy and quick to post a photograph or status when you are facing a problem, but discussing solutions about daily problems takes concentrated effort and time, which is what participation on MyGov is about, he added.

While some critics point out that policy discussions are not suited in Facebook or Twitter style setup of MyGov, Mr. Dwivedi said the new platform had to establish the credibility like various other methods of citizen engagement, which takes time. “Public discourse is not, and should not be limited to just one kind. The existence of MyGov doesn’t eliminate the existing offline methods of public consultation. It offers an additional digital medium,” he added.

Budget consultation

The budget consultation process was one of the success stories for the platform. In association with the Ministries of Railways and Finance, MyGov had solicited ideas from citizens for Railway and Union Budgets for two consecutive years. The Railways budget incorporated 10 ideas in 2015 and 15 in 2016, whereas the Union Budget took 10 suggestions in both years from MyGov.

One can expect an exponential growth in adoption and usage of the platform once people start witnessing the impact and result of their activities and engagement on MyGov, Mr. Dwivedi believes. “So has been the case for other social networks like Facebook. It should be no different for MyGov,” he said.