Monday, July 2, 2012

Social media, a platform for debate


-Timesofindia
DONA PAULA: With a large section of the internet accessing population connected to various social media online, it seems like the social media is here to stay. Hence, with people's participation through social media increasing, the medium has given people a platform for debate and discourse. In this context, speakers at the seminar on 'Social media and its role in democracy' felt citizens need to use social media effectively as a tool for participation in democracy.
The seminar, organised by the International Centre Goa in association with Media Information and Communication Centre of India (MIand Friedrich Ebert Stiftung - India (FES-India) saw the participation of over 100 students from various media colleges as well as informed citizens from various fields. Bevinda Colaco, editor of a news website, said "social media is being increasingly used by politicians," and went on to list some prominent politicians who had opened social networking profiles before the polls.


Colaco felt social media can influence policy decisions, and cited the NoMoZo concept as an example. Niraj Naik, founder of online directory Digital Goa, said "the media has shown a ray of hope by exposing scams and scandals." This he felt has led to people's aspirations increasing. Naik said "the social media is an emerging media and can play an important role in safeguarding democracy."


"It offers freedom and flexibility, but can be misused for personal scores," he cautioned.Naik felt there was a "need for a customised social media solution for India" as the present "social media tools are created by Americans for their requirements." We must rope in every citizen, as the internet has provided a level playing field for all, he added.He felt the social media could be used as an interface between people and the government.


Werner Souza, a mobile entrepreneur, felt people were mistaken in thinking social media is a new phenomenon. Souza said "the tiatr and zagor -- the Konkani folk theatre -- have been around as a form of social media since 1892." He narrated instances when due to its fast reach, social media has been used in times of crisis such as during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Ameya Kamat, an IAC activist, felt "democracy is limited to electoral politics." He called for e-democracy and suggested that referendums on various issues could be conducted online.Kamat said democracy today "lacked participation, representation and accountability."


While stating that electoral reforms have to come, he felt social media could play a role in bringing reform as it gives space for healthy and open debate.Social media censorship is negligible and it has a global reach, said Kamat. He felt chief minister Manohar Parrikar should make government departments accessible online.

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