Chatbots could make your local politician more accountable
When people ask me why they should use a bot, my answer is simple.
Bots are engaging.
Land on a webpage, and you need to go through the effort of reading the content and figuring out exactly what is being said. Land on a bot, and it will (ideally) tell you exactly what you need to know, when you want to know it.
For this reason, it does not take much effort to find several articles explaining why marketers should pay attention to bots.
So it comes as a great surprise to me that I have found no political bots.
Political Campaign or Marketing Campaign?
The best way I have heard the political campaign described is as a combination of a war and an ad campaign. There exist two opposing sides intent upon battling for victory, emblematic of war. But at the same time, political campaigns are essentially marketing campaigns. Opposing camps try to engage with as many potential leads as possible in the hope of getting more people to back their product, i.e. their candidate.
Living in India, you learn that politicians will do anything to make you think of them. While at the local level, this is largely limited to offline methods like hoardings and pamphlets, national campaigns go all out - radio, TV, public speeches, front page newspaper ads, YouTube commercials, text messages, those much dreaded WhatsApp forwards that your uncle just cannot stop sending, the list is endless.
In fact, in what I can only assume to be a first of its kind, here is a picture of our current Prime Minister campaigning via hologram in his successful 2014 parliamentary election campaign.
It really makes you question the common adage on you not being able to be in two places at once.
Of late, in India, it has become something of a trend to engage supporters through programmes, where leaders address their supporters’ questions and concerns. The Prime Minister runs a radio show called Mann ki Baat (Talk from the Heart). Meanwhile, his political rival and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal recently started an internet show called Talk to AK, which garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook, and saw not one but two hashtags (#talktoaktomorrow and #TalkToAK) trending on Twitter.
I can't help but think that a natural progression of this trend would be having a chatbot.
A chatbot! Really?
They are a new tool in the kit of a marketer and a new weapon in the hands of a general waging a campaign.
As politicians try to engage with potential voters and supporters more meaningfully, a chatbot offers the promise of the ultimate level of engagement. Rather than having a talk show on which only a few supporters can get their questions through, imagine a future in which everyone has complete access to their leaders through a bot. A virtual AK or Modi, if you will, who will answer all your questions about their policies.
Of course, the benefits do not flow only in one direction. A corollary is that every citizen has complete access to their leaders through a bot, and can, therefore, hold them more accountable. Imagine if you could scream at your local politician every time you saw a pothole or a garbage dump appear near your house. Political accountability would increase significantly.
Chatbots will disrupt governance and elections as we know them today. They are a natural progression in our everlasting quest to create a system of government in which politicians are responsive to their voters’ desires, and are held accountable for their actions after the frenzy of an election is over.
Inspired by this thought process, I decided to create a political bot! Over the weekend, I created a scripted bot that turned Arvind Kejriwal's platform into a bot.
The future of the Indian political system certainly looks a lot more exciting!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)