Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group
From where can I get the latest Census data on a compact disc, asks Rajiv Gupta from Kolkata and pat comes the reply from Census office in Delhi. Gupta is satisfied with the reply. So is V Rao who too gets a prompt reply to his query on when would the sub-district and block level population data be made public?
Gupta and Rao are among the near 20,000 fans of Census 2011 homepage on Facebook. Not only are these fans actively pursuing the unending churn of data posted by Census office online but they are also enjoying the role of agenda-setters for India’s premier number crunching organization.
And for a change Census officials are not complaining but are happily engaging the digital generation in their effort to create public awareness about Census findings. Census 2011, a service from the Census Commission of India under the Union Home Ministry, is fast emerging as the government’s best offering on the social networking media. Census 2011 is logged on 24x7 on Facebook with live updates, comments and responses from the department.
Reuben Dantes, an active follower of the site on Facebook, is addicted to the page. “We do have other government Facebook pages but the Census 2011 page stands out from the rest, because they have chosen to directly interact with the people, answer specific doubts and queries.”
The Facebook idea landed at the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India office soon after it released the momentous Census 2011 findings. The result has been more than satisfying.
An elated Census Commissioner Dr C Chandramouli said, “This initiative has really helped to connect with the people. The responses of the people have been overwhelming. People have been very inquisitive and thoughtful throughout and have been actively participating and commenting on our regular updates.” He is not averse to criticism and would look forward to some constructive suggestions to engage the public better.
“It`s challenging to be able to reply, especially to criticism, defending the decisions taken, and accepting one`s limitations. They are now literally answerable to the people,” added Dantes (the avid Census page follower). He actually wondered why several other government departments did not follow the Census example?
On last count approximately 28 million people in India are addicted to Facebook. India is said to be having the fifth largest user base for FB worldwide with a prediction that it would be the second largest by 2012 end.
The strong connect of youth in particular might have been the key driver for the Census activity on FB. According to NCAER, India has about 333 million literate youth in the country. The Population Enumeration phase of the 15th Census of India was undertaken from the 9th to the 28th of February, 2011.
Dr Chandramouli sure knows the youth’s urge to stay on top of information. “We will try to regularly update the findings of the Census to get connected with our Census lovers,” he promised.
The Government of India in a bid to raise awareness among people took the initiative to launch a Census 2011 Facebook page during this period. Started with a much fanfare, it is one among few government agencies which is using social media to connect to people.
Rajeev Desai, CEO, Comma Consulting, a communications specialist agency said, “This initiative of Census team is really worth mentioning. Census is like a plethora of information and the way it is uploaded in Facebook makes it more easily accessible to people. The success of this page shows the thirst of the citizens for information.”
The popularity of the Census page can be judged by the fact that 19,761 (on last count) people have liked it. The Census updates on population characteristics, economic data, sex ratio, literacy and education, household amenities and others are updated on the Facebook on a regular basis and people from diverse backgrounds have taken immense interest in reading those updates and raising their queries pertaining to the same.
Indian Diplomacy (Ministry Of External Affairs) also recently logged onto Facebook earning 2,776 (on last count) likes. Other ministries like Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of HRD, Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and Ministry of Tourism, do have an account but their authenticity is questionable. Also, the activity level is cosmetic.