Civic agencies on social media: Consensus on visibility, but not about solution

Civic agencies on social media: Consensus on visibility, but not about solution

The idea of democracy is justified when the general public is able to gain access to the governmental departments and personnel. Bengalureans, who are witnessing the advent of civic agencies on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, echo this opinion. For many, it is a step towards transparency while others linger on the question of “actual resolution of problems.”

Suhas Narasimhan, a consultant at SAP Labs, has this to say : “To be honest, I am quite happy that the government officials are taking to social media to be accessible. Though there was no action taken when I reported a traffic violation, it was more of a technical limitation where they could not identify the person as there was no licence plate at all. But I was happy that I did get some response.”

Hopeful that social media will be used extensively by all the civic agencies, Suhas said it is a positive development and it is good to see that government agencies/officials are willing to use the power of social media to provide services and listen to the grievances.

Agreeing with Suhas is Kaveri Paul, a homemaker, who says, “It is good to see that government officials have access to social media since they know it is a very effective medium and their good / bad work will be noticed by the public.” She herself had posted a complaint on the BBMP Commissioner’s page on Facebook and got a quick response.
While these social media platforms have turned grievance redressal forums, they also seem to be a means for citizens to actively fulfil their civic responsibilities.

Pavan Kumar, a programmer analyst at CSC, says the main reason for him to join Twitter was to contact and interact with government authorities. A lot of individuals and groups such as Whitefield Rising and Ugly Indian (on Facebook) are actively doing the same. He says the response is varied. “Some of the MLAs and government authorities are proactive and react to complaints and suggestions by people. I have seen many cases where these authorities have directly responded and solved issues. But many are still inactive or are not even available on social media. Hopefully, this will change in times to come. Overall, I see an encouraging trend that will enable us citizens to participate more actively to make democracy more functional,” says Pavan.

The presence of civic agencies on social media makes it easier for the public to approach the authorities with a grievance. They could then avoid going physically to a government office. However, the responsiveness of the officials remains the same whether online or offline, opines Vishnu Prasanth, a software engineer. 

A section of Bengalureans disagree, however. Mithra Ramesh, a developer at Mindtree, is sceptical about these online initiatives by the departments ‘benefitting’ people. “I do not think filing a complaint will create much impact as I think there would be a tendency to get lethargic. It will create an impact, but there is no guarantee that people will be surely benefitted,” says Mithra, largely unsure about the honesty of the officials.

Vilva Kumar K S, a private firm employee, opines that these social media initiatives are a waste of one's time and terms them a sham. None of the complaints he has lodged with the PublicEye app have been responded to. He feels that if the officials respond to public grievances sincerely, it will go a long way in ensuring public support for government civic initiatives.  

While it is appreciated that the grievances are heard, noted and registered even on online platforms, the scepticism whether the problems will actually be resolved is apparent in the opinions of the citizens in the City. It is in the hands of these agencies, which are striving to reach the public, to prove that the grievances of the public are addressed.