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Millennium Post

Cyber governance can fill in, not rule

Narendra Modi has a lot to teach our flaccid bureaucrats. In addition to punctuality, efficiency and tremendous drive to work round-the-clock, what he needs to inject our babus with is a necessary and absolutely unavoidable ability to take to the internet as a tool of governance. While the PM, in his meetings with top IT czars, domestic and global, empahsised the importance of cyber governance and electronic statesmanship, his executive seems to be lightyears behind, still reluctant to answer even emails. In the light of this digital gulf even within the state machinery, what we need is a slow but effective transition to electronic mode of official rule. The catchwords like connectivity, outreach, network, interaction, awareness and information sharing are all significant ingredients in a society that is witnessing a radical transformation not just in its makeup, but also in its fundamental method of linking the citizen with the state. Hence, even as the Prime Minister insists on Facebook and Twitter becoming the latest tools of governance, what we require is a complementarity and balancing of both the electronic and the old, physical mode of reaching out to the people. While interaction on social media can be a fantastically efficient method of connecting the various dots in the public sphere, as proved to the hilt by the landslide victory of the Modi-led NDA in the last general elections, decades of interpersonal bonding and good old ground-level contact cannot be wished away. Nor is it advisable for the bureaucracy to abandon tried and tested methods of sieving through reports and actually visiting people and places to arrive at decisions. Either way, the state apparatus must learn fast and reach a feasible middle path in order to balance electronic communication with direct interaction, as advocated by the PM himself.
       It must not be forgotten that Modi, during his nine-month long poll campaign, had visited almost every state capital and had addressed people divided along language, religion, caste and caste lines. In all of his speeches, many of which had come under fire over incitement to hate and communal violence, Modi had ensured he touched base with the poorest of the poor. Inasmuch as India still has miles to go before it can honestly boast of having a truly digitised democracy, given that almost 60 per cent of our people still do not have access to the internet, and haven’t tasted broadband connectivity, we need to walk a tightrope between the old and new modes of governance and outreach. Hence, while it is a commendable dream to bring one billion Indians under the cool shade of cyber canopy, the socio-economic realities must not be forgotten. Bureaucracy needs digital literacy. 
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