When senior ministers of the government said that the “President is not elected through SMS campaign, “ they were dismissing SMS and blogs as tools of a participatory democracy...
Mr Dasmunsi’s comments were made in the light of the campaign carried in the electronic media about the desirability of a second term for President Kalam. And while he was technically correct in dismissing the role that people and hence their SMS and blogs had to play in electing the President, the fact is that in being dismissive the ministers revealed a certain lack of understanding of the power of this new medium.
It could be argued that internet penetration in India is low, at the end of May, there were 2.46 million broadband connections in the country. Even if all landline connections — at the end of May there were 40.26 million connections — were to be treated as potential dial up internet connections, penetration of the internet is rather low. When it comes to wireless phones, to determine the catchment area for SMS campaigns, there are 177.79 million subscribers. At the end of May, India had a teledensity of 19.26, that is for every hundred persons only 19.26 had a physical phone, which could be a cellular or a landline phone.
It could be this low penetration of telephones as well as a negative growth pattern for broadband subscribers that could have made the ministers dismiss the importance of the SMS and blog campaign for President Kalam. But the power of this medium lies not in its numerical strength but in the momentum it creates.
.....the SMS campaign for Kalam, or the blogs on Pratibha Patil’s suitability as president help form a certain kind of opinion. The SMS campaign for President Kalam showed overwhelming support for the idea of a second term for him. The message that seemed to go out was that the government was willing to turn a deaf ear to the voice of the people. It didn’t matter that the voice of the people represented through the SMS campaign was not representative of the electorate. So when ministers dismiss the SMS polls, they reinforces the feeling of a lack of understanding of the power shift to the new media.
Blogs and SMS, limited as they may be in there spread, seem to have democratised opinion making. Blogs about Pratibha Patil’s credentials or alleged lack thereof, gives rise to discussions all of which centre on the credentials of those who supported her candidature. [ET]
If the MSM and Web 2.0 can join hands, then the power of the new and old mediums can be put to better use of making our country a better place for all of us.