The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has approved two important frameworks for use of social media by government agencies and citizen engagement for e-Governance projects. Here are some highlights from both the guidelines:

Download Guidelines: Social Media Framework | Citizen Engagement in e-Governance

Use of social media by government agencies

On using social media: The framework notes that social media should not be used by Government agencies just to broadcast information but also to undertake meaningful participation from the public to formulate public policies. Government agencies can use social media to receive feedback from citizens, re-pronouncing public policy, conduct general and issue-based interactions, spreading awareness and educating citizens on various National Action Plans and its implementation strategies and for brand building.

Platforms: Government agencies can make use of any existing social media platforms which includes social networking sites, social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon; e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay and self publishing media platforms like YouTube or create their own communication platform.

– In case of existing platforms, government agencies should identify and choose one or two key platforms to start their interaction and later expand to other platforms based on their objective and response received. Agencies should choose the initial platform based on the duration of the engagement (ongoing or time bound), consultation type (public or a specific group), consultation period (hourly, daily, weekly and bi-weekly), and compliance to existing laws which includes compliance to data protection, security, privacy, archiving requirements of the law.

Same Names During Account Creation: Wherever possible, the same name should be used at the time of account creation at various social media platforms to enable citizens find the accounts easily. A proper record of the login ids and passwords of the official accounts must be maintained. It should also be determined by agencies whether the officials should use official accounts to post response or they can post official responses through their personal accounts.

– Officials should state the turn around time and the scope of the response upfront. The responses should be should be short and to the point and its not necessary to respond to each post or comment immediately and individually. Officials can express their personal opinions after disclosing their position, however confidential information should not be disclosed and these opinions will not be termed as the official opinion of the agency. Officials who are designated for citizen engagement should be covered under a well defined immunity provision which is in agreement with the RTI act, the IT act and the IT Ammendment Act 2008.

Content Creation: Content should be created and posted in Indian languages to enable wider participation and it should not be limited to text only. Content should be shared consistently across all platforms but it should be tailor made to that specific platform on which it is being shared. None of the sites should ideally be abandoned for more than a week or two without any new content and the content should be topical and up to date.

– Agencies can sign service level agreements with social media service providers to store and have shared access of the content and its archival mechanisms since majority of the social media platforms are based outside India and are therefore not governed by Indian laws.

– Government should use social media platforms to only announce existing information and agencies should take great care to avoid the propagation of unverified facts and frivolous misleading rumors on these platforms. Further, social media should only be a part of the government’s citizen engagement strategy and agencies should not depend solely on these platforms to have talks with their stakeholders.

Citizen Engagement for e-Governance projects

– The framework states that citizens can collaborate on e-Governance projects from the initial conceptualisation to the final implementation in an ideal scenario, however it recommends e-Governance project managers to seek citizen engagement only in the first three levels (Inform, Consult & Involve) initially, however as the process matures the implementers can seek engagement in collaboration and empowerment.

– It recommends implementers to create a citizen engagement team which should comprise of internal stakeholders like decision makers, service providers and service/process influencers and external stakeholders like civil society organisations, elected representatives and beneficiaries.

– This team would be responsible for various tasks like developing all the background information needed for the project, designing benchmark and the evaluation criteria for the project, publicizing the project, identifying and recruiting the potential participants for it and selecting necessary tools for citizen participation and finally reporting the project results and making relevant recommendations based on the result.

On Techniques of Engagement: The framework notes that there is no specific technique for citizen engagement in the e-governance projects since it depends on the situation. However, the techniques can be broadly divided into online or ICT-enabled techniques and offline techniques. The framework reiterates that social media platform should be just one of the platforms for citizen engagement.

Other techniques include face-to-face meetings, focus groups, Newsletters, Bulletin boards, citizen charters, and Mass Media which includes Print, TV, Radio and Community.