Recently, the Election Commission of India directed candidates to furnish social media account details when filing their nominations. Candidates also need to furnish payment information for activities including social media advertising, content creation, and salary payments to dedicated social media staff. Moves such as these allude to the growing influence of social media, and technology in general, on matters of governance and administration.
In today’s hyper-connected world, technology is crucial in driving citizen participation and ensuring engagement. In the much-publicized 2008 US presidential election, political parties sought to harness the power of technology, especially social media, to canvass and reach out to their electorate. The increasing role of technology in election campaigns was again illustrated in this year’s Australian federal election, which witnessed ‘social’ battles between prime ministerial candidates aimed at gaining voter confidence. Consequently, several other countries have now evolved their own e-governance policies and tools.
Many countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Peru and Spain, have already issued unique identification cards, which can be used by their citizens to avail government benefits. Currently, India, Nepal, and Mauritius are a few of the countries in the process of implementing unique ID card schemes. Such schemes allow governments to deploy specific, targeted, and uniform initiatives across locations and demographics, in addition to gathering a substantial quantity of rich data.
By exchanging, gathering, and analyzing insights gained through various public touch points, governments can now employ a highly informed decision-making process, greatly reducing public dissent while driving innovation and improving legislation and service delivery. Governments are also using technology to create trust and communicate effectively with the public. An example of this is Nigeria’s Freedom of Information bill, which enables citizens to source information, hitherto unavailable in the public domain. Now, Nigerians can access documents on corruption and also participate in initiatives to address health challenges, such as the AIDS programmes. The West African nation has web and mobile applications to propagate public information and make key findings public knowledge. In fact, a Nigerian budget analysis website, BudgIT, acts as an intermediary between the government and the citizens.
Cities across the world, too, are using a wide range of tools to improve and drive effective governance. Earlier this year, New York City released over 200 high-value data sets to the public in order to provide content for open-sourced projects. This development follows several others including one in France, where crowd sourced data is used to regulate traffic and reduce congestion. M-governance (mobile-governance) and smartphone apps are the other major technological developments over the recent years. Recently, the Emirate of Dubai launched smartphone applications to let citizens access its public services including a payment gateway app, suggestions and complaints app, and a self-service app.
Countries across the globe are increasingly incorporating technological innovations in day-to-day governance. Do you agree that technology can greatly improve the quality and efficiency of governance? Share your view with us in the comments section below.