Foreign ministry embraces social media

In 2008, the Ministry of External Affairs had blocked social media websites on the internal network at South Block to stop cyber attacks and leakage of classified information.

Two years later, there is a sea change in the ministry, with the foreign secretary herself being a savvy user of social media through her twitter account (@foreignsecnrao).

In line with the changing times powered by technology, the ministry has removed the ban on social network sites. "An order was issued over a week ago that new media channels should be unblocked," an MEA official told IANS.

The foreign ministry has been the pioneer among central ministries in using Twitter and Facebook for outreach activities.

The Twitter account of the Public Diplomacy division (@indiandiplomacy) was opened in July 2010 and has since acquired over 7,100 followers.

There are now three senior officials of MEA on Twitter, beginning with Rao.

She was followed by joint secretary (external publicity) Vishnu Prakash (@vprakashmea), and the latest entrant being additional secretary, consular, passport and visa, Basant Gupta (@ascpv).

All three officials have so far been accessing Twitter on their official Blackberry phones.

The recent Libya evacuation had shown first-hand the power of Twitter usage by the government, with the ministry and foreign secretary continuously updating information on the situation.

It was also the conduit for several people stuck in Libya to get in touch with the government for eventual evacuation.

The ministry has plans to get its allied organisations on Twitter, especially Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

Recently, the ministry got the Gov2.in Award-2011 for exceptional achievement and being the first central ministry to use social media extensively.

It was not immediately known if other government ministries would follow the example of the external affairs ministry in its public diplomacy outreach.

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