The online space needs to be explored by politicians. More and more are starting their own websites but it will take around five years to figure out the profile of the typical online viewer and to gauge how effective online campaigning can be. The only thing hitch here is that most Indian politicians aim at enticing the masses, many of who are either uneducated or not connected.
The Obama campaign was hugely successful because it was targeted at attracting first time voters. And it was found that most first-time voters there have access to the net. There will be around 10 crore first-time voters in India this election but we don’t know how many of them use the Internet. Most Indian politicians prefer to use the popularity of television to make their poll promises. But, I foresee a day when the online medium will be popular. My experience with politicians in Karnataka tells me that most of them do not have the time or inclination to keep their websites updated. Interacting with their aides isn’t very easy either because most of them have no idea about the online space. They ask questions like why does developing a site cost so much? Why they can’t have their own domain name? Websites need to be updated regularly and most politicians need to hire an exclusive PR to do their online and offline writing.
India is a more complex democracy than the US. Our politics is mostly cost-based while the issues that bother the American electorate are different.
Here’s what our politicians should do in the internet and mobile space:
- Parties must clearly list their manifesto on their website in multiple languages (though nobody refers to the manifesto after elections).
- Politicians must have simple and clean websites. If your an incumbent, list your achievements from the current tenure, if you are trying to unseat the incumbent, list all that is wrong with the constituency and what you will do to fix them. Try to get as local as possible.
- Use social networking sites to reach out to the young and educated voters like Obama.
- Provide all the information to the company which is developing the portal and then do not to interfere in its development of the portal.