From consumer advocacy to citizen activism, social media have had dramatic impacts over the years in India. This year, the Manthan Award for Social Media and Empowerment was launched by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (www.DEFindia.net) to explore the innovations and practices of social media for progressive change in India.
“A total of 125 nominees were received across 23 states in India, reflecting the immense faith of the social media innovators and practitioners in this new digital forum,” said Osama Manzar, founder of DEF. The nominations include blogs, Facebook and Twitter campaigns, YouTube channels, and other online forums.
Activists harness social media and mobile technologies at differing levels of participation. At a basic level, users may circulate, forward and relay information. More sophisticated uses include ‘mashing up’ existing content, creating new content, and collaboratively co-creating content. The combination of online communication and offline ‘meet-ups’ where time and place can be coordinated in realtime by mobile phones and social media has been powerfully demonstrated by the ‘smart swarms.’
Social media in India
In October 2013, the social media user base in India crossed the 200 million mark, according to the report, ‘Social Media in India – 2013’ by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB). This is expected to grow to 243 million in the country by June 2014, overtaking the US as the world’s second largest internet base (with China as largest).
The number of social media users in urban India crossed 86 million in October 2013, which is expected to grow 91 million by the end of this year. The report also claims that 19.8 million users access social media platforms through their mobile phones in urban India. Approximately 42 per cent of rural users prefer to access social media in their local language.
Facebook is leading the way, with India becoming the third biggest market with 78 million users at the end of January-March 2013. Twitter has 33 million users in India, Google Plus (G+) 2.2 million users, and Pinterest 5.5 million users. LinkedIn has 20 million users in India, making it the second largest market worldwide after the US.
The Indian government has proposed to set up a New Media wing that will handle its social media accounts, and will be set up at a cost of Rs 225 million ($3.7 million).
“The power of social media is astounding — you no longer require a huge investment or resources to make your voice heard. People are rallying around issues that matter to them to make a difference, be it governance, LGBT rights, women’s empowerment, human rights, access to food or international affairs,” said Ankhi Das, Head of Public Policy for Facebook India. “Digital empowerment is at the heart of our existence,” she added.
“There are so many people out there who are passionate and willing to empower people by leveraging the immense potential of social media,” said Aditya Gupta, Co-Founder of Social Samosa /iGenero; he drew references to the anti-corruption movement in India which drew support from across the age spectrum.
Here are brief descriptions of the outstanding social media practices and innovators in India. The finalists were felicitated at an awards gala in New Delhi earlier this December. I was honoured to be one of the online jurors for the 2013 edition of the awards.
The jury roundtable included Prasanto Kumar Roy, Adviser, CyberMedia; Soumya Sarkar, National Editor, MINT; Shubhranshu Choudhary, Founder, CGNet Swara; Raheel Khursheed,
Communication Director, Change.org, India; Vishal Kumar, Director, Swaniti Initiative; Aditya Gupta, Co Founder, iGenero / Social Samosa; Abhishek Baxi, Digital Consultant, Technology Columnist; and Anika Gupta, Digital Strategy & Outreach, Whypoll Foundation.
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