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Indian govt setting up New Media wing to handle social media accounts

The government of India has proposed to set up a New Media wing that will handle its social media accounts to 'communicate and disseminate' various initiatives through sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, among others. The Union Cabinet last week approved the proposal to set up the wing, which will cost Rs 22.5 crore ($3.7 million) to the exchequer, according to an official announcement.

The fund was allocated during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) and the proposal was drawn on the basis of the experience of the initiative undertaken on a pilot basis (to position itself on the social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (IB).

It is not immediately clear whether the government will set up an in-house team or outsource the project to an external agency. However, the wing will be headed by a senior officer of joint secretary rank and it will work under his / her supervision, direction and guidance. The wing would integrate the communication tools horizontally and vertically through various social media platforms. In addition, the administrative and operational support will be provided by a media unit under the ministry.

Given the fast-growing internet users in India, social media has become an important tool for the government to broadcast news and information quickly and effectively. Governments in developed countries such as the US and the UK are already using social media to connect with their citizens and communicate official information to them.

In India, various government departments such as Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Public Diplomacy Division of Ministry of External Affairs and Tourism Ministry already have Twitter or Facebook accounts. A few ministers like union law minister Kapil Sibal, and union minister of state (independent charge) for Information and Broadcasting, Manish Tewari, and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, have been active on social media. Even the Indian Prime Minister's office has an official Twitter account.

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