Matters of public interest can trigger public curiosity and civic actions by individuals and organizations alike. There are three categories within this subject area which are worth mentioning:
- Initiatives engaging the public in progressive discussions,
- Addressing public service inefficiencies,
- Projects specific to combating bribery.
These efforts challenge corruption by promoting active citizenship, exposing the inefficiency of the government and demanding transparency in service delivery. Anna Hazare in India spearheaded a phenomenal movement with the help of both conservative media as well as social media which heralded legislative reforms aimed at eradicating corruption. Such Civic participation initiatives prove instrumental in initiating public debate on social issues through involving social networks. We in our country did initiate such debates but mostly on the electronic media. Whereas in Russia Tak-tak-tak promotes wider public participation, providing a social media platform to fill a gap in the Russian civil society and journalism. In India, Praja offers similar online space for citizen participation by collecting information on local issues and encouraging the community to develop solutions (Bekri, et al. 2011). The importance of such initiatives lies in the role they play towards public awareness and participation, strengthening civic capacity and establishing a solid foundation for future
There are still other initiatives which provide avenues to the common man to complain or discuss solutions addressing community problems. A social medium allows residents in Chennai, India to report on issues such as potholes, leaking sewage and garbage collection delays through the online facility. We do have some newspaper blogs in addition to formal mechanisms to file complaints highlighting acts of omissions and commissions on part of public functionaries, but there is a big question mark on their effectiveness. It is not out of place to state here that social media is an effective way for citizens to report bribery. By using mobile technology and compiling online databases of evidence, we can bring to light acts of malpractices and misconduct perpetrated by public functionaries. Anti-bribery programmes have suddenly become very popular in India, where corruption is considered a part of everyday life. ‘I Paid a Bribe’ encourages Indian citizens to submit SMS or online reports about instances where ordinary people have been compelled to pay a bribe. Such platforms definitely lend impetus to anti-corruption efforts (Bekri, et al. 2011). However, such civic initiatives face the challenge of the validity of information. Though the possibility of facts being tarnished by fiction cannot be overruled by those employing social media tools, yet, this consideration should not be permitted to inhibit the use of the social media. The anti-corruption elements tend to believe that these technology driven tools are destined to nurture capacity building and community empowerment in a society hit hard by the demon of corruption.
Access to Social Media Technologies
According to the Internet World Stats (IWS) estimate there are around 2,267,233,742 internet users in the world, which constitutes 32.7 percent of the total world population. While a regional breakup suggests that 44.8 percent of total internet users are Asian, interestingly, among the world’s top 20 internet user states, China stands at number one, India at third and Pakistan at 20th ( Daily Times, 2012).
According to a news report published in December 2011, Pakistan’s total population was approximately 180 million out of which around 30 million used internet, which represented 15.5 percent of the total population of Pakistan. Face book is the most subscribed internet site in Pakistan, followed by Google, YouTube, Blogs, Wikipedia, Twitter, LinkedIn and others (Daily Times, 2012). Currently there are more than six million face book users in Pakistan. Twitter is said to have more than three million users in Pakistan and this rate is increasing rapidly.
Internet access is considerably increasing in our country as Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd (PTCL) and other telecommunication servers are now offering affordable and speedy internet packages. Our attachment and awareness of social networking can be gauged from the fact that the government was severely criticised when it blocked Twitter for more than eight hours on May 2, 2012. It was followed by front-page stories and editorials in the national press.