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The Narendra Modi App

June 30, 2015

None other than tech-savvy Narendra Modi realizes the power of social media and internet  better. He once conceded spending much time on the net and social media did play a major role in catapulting him to the power of strength that he is today.  Soon after becoming the prime minister of the country in May last year, one of the first statements that he made was to  accord priority to social media – “I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world. I hope this platform creates opportunities to listen, learn and share one’s views.”

The Narendra Modi App

Undoubtedly Modi is among the most tech-savvy leaders and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance. His unflinching faith in social media has fetched him results in the last one year whether in last year’s general elections, or in establishing a direct rapport with the citizens as prime minister.

Today the Indian prime minister is already the third most popular world leader on micro-blogging site Twitter with about 13 million followers!

His pages on other social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, and even his own personal as well as official websites, too, have massive followers. Even his use of radio – a carefully selected mass medium with wide rural/urban reach hitherto overlooked by politicians – has made his monthly “Mann Ki Baat” programme a huge success. (An October 2014 survey in six Indian cities including Mumbai and Chennai, indicated about 66.7% of the population in these cities had tuned in to listen to the PM’s address. The programme has since become a top grosser for the All India Radio)!

Obviously, Modi’s visibility on the social media sites as well as easily available radio sets has not just set the tempo for his e-governance and m-governance plans, but also points at his grasp of media convergence. The recently launched ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App’ on android – launched on 17th June –  is yet another sequel to this plan. That the app seamlessly integrates his radio programmes with the netizens on mobile hence cannot be overlooked as just another feature of the app. It effectively multiplies Modi’s reach as now one can listen to “various ‘Mann ki Baat’ editions of the PM” on the Narendra Modi app.

Expectedly, the prime minister was quick to tweet about the app the very same day –

“Launched ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App’. Come, let’s stay connected on the mobile! …The Mobile App has several innovative features. You can download it from Play Store. Feedback is welcome.”

Modi’s tweets do look like salesmanship, and nothing wrong in it. He is not the first politician to have a personal app – but was this a first for a prime minister?  It may be mentioned that politicians were usually known to launch a personal app only for campaigning purposes. In that sense, Modi has taken the app to the next level – of e-governance!

The impact of such an app is not difficult to gauge considering that India is the world’s fastest growing android-based smartphone market. In the next two years, Google expects around 1.2 billion smartphone sales in just six countries— India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines—where Android One has been launched.

Expectedly, the Google Playstore that hosts the app, already registered “100,000-500,000” downloads.

Obviously this does increase the visibility of the Prime Minister manifold and through his websites, the PM is quick to sell the app as “an exclusive opportunity to connect with the PM”. By installing the app, one gets easy access to:

  • 1. All the latest information and real time updates on Modi
  • 2. Comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, including an ‘infographics’ section.
  • 3. E-mails & messages directly from the PM.
  • 4. Listen to various ‘Mann ki Baat’ editions of the PM
  • 5. Read the PM’s blogs, biography

This reminds one of the books by renowned journalist late Vinod Mehta titled Mr Editor, how close are you to the PM?

Late Mehta used to take pride in the editor’s proximity to the prime minister. Now the app, as being publicized, seeks to bring the users as close to a prime minister as an influential editor in a fast changing scenanrio where citizen journalists too have emerged as a potent disseminators of news and information!

A comment of a user posted on the Google Playstore wall says it all: “Namo NaMo I’m connected to my PM every minute of the day … isn’t that amazing? Thank u so much.”

It may be mentioned that earlier this year, Modi had invited engineers and developers to come up with ideas for a PMO app. A contest too was announced to encourage participation. The app’s features are based on the suggestions selected from over 9,500 submissions from all parts of the country.

Yet there are certain teething troubles including “laggy” url and “slow” servers, as highlighted by the users. Besides, although the app has the provision of writing to the PM and offering him feedbacks, the link opens a Web page on chrome browser & another account needs to be created. Many even complain of being unable to write to PM due to “error”.

Overall, it is a good initiative and a powerful political tool to nurture various constituencies for Modi. Already his detractors grumble that the app is just meant to advertise and market Modi.

The detractors do have a point. Although the app offers interaction with the PM – “The users can receive messages and can interact via emails directly with the PM” – users point out that while the app seeks one to enter name and other details along with email address, after entering the email and captcha upon clickingon the submit option, the application throws an error that says email should be 75 characters and no special characters allowed.

The error needs to be rectified at the earliest. The dangers of such applications are that though they are effective communication tools, the communication largely remains one-way and lacks probity. It is here that Modi needs to raise the bar and allow questions to be asked directly to him and answer them, without being selective. It is here that an editor or a journalist still plays a vital role.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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