4:25pm: And this could well be Pitroda’s Mary Antoinette moment-come-true! @DevjyotGhoshal asked Pitroda how the NKN, the National Knowledge Network, could possibly help a school girl in a remote village or a tribal in Chattisgarh, Pitroda said, “They can take online courses.” And as the respondents to the answer wondered aloud, how, with thousands of villages having no access to electricity could possibly take to ‘online courses’, Pitroda decided to wrap the presser up.
4:15pm: Pitroda responds to a Times of India question, which asked why internet is so expensive in India. In the usual jumble of tech and governance jargon Pitroda has been using throughout the presser, he replied, “Hopefully prices will go down as we get more broadband capacity and OFC to panchayats.”
4:10pm: Nitin Pai (@acorn) succinctly rounds up how the press conference went.
Dear @pitrodasam: Building connectivity & improving access is a great thing. But “democratisation of information” is jargon sans meaning.
— Nitin Pai (@acorn) September 25, 2012
4:05pm More PR for the UPA! Asked why the information infrastructure of the government failed to clear the air around the ethnic tension that gripped the country following the Assam riots, this is what Pitroda had to say:
— Sam Pitroda (@pitrodasam) September 25, 2012
4.00pm: Again, Pitroda chooses to remain ambiguous about the nature of information that will not be shared with the public. @swapnapillai asks, “What is the kind of information that will not be shared?”. Pitroda plays it safe again, “Various dept will decide that. First there will be some concerns. However, I am sure after a while dep will be more open.” There, he just refused to answer what a lot of people in the country actually want to know.
3.50pm Back to his lavish rhetoric, Pitroda reiterates the power of information again. “I firmly believe that information is the 4th pillar of democracy along with legislature, executive and judiciary,” he says. He also shows signs of trying to play off retorts. When Deepika asks if information should be the basis of the pillars of democracy, Pitroda says, “Yes”, with an emphasis. He adds, “However Information platform is needed to integrate,create standards and improve access.”
3:40pm: @ShivangiNarayan asks Pitroda about what documents will be made available to the public. While Pitroda, in the YouTube briefing, had declared that ‘information’ is power and that’s why there was a need to make it available to people, he chooses to play safe and play for the government in this case. “Certain sensitive information will have to be controlled by the government,” he says. While someone responds, asking what he means by ‘sensitive’, Pitroda chooses to duck.
3:30pm: The UPA Govt has various plans to build robust Information Infrastructure to democratise information on a scale that has never been done before, says Pitroda. And like we were expecting, Pitroda adds that the government has the ‘political will’ to democratise information.
3:25pm: Sam Pitroda uploads a YouTube link where he tries to explain the reason behind holding the Twitter press conference. “In India we have RTI. But the information is locked up in files,” says Pitroda.
Seems like Manmohan Singh is done tom-toming the virtues of ‘silence’. Following a badly calculated silence that failed to shield the Prime Minister and the PMO’s office from the heat of the Coalgate scam, the government seems to have woken up and taken notice.
As a result, we finally heard Singh speak up, after his return from the NAM summit in Tehran. He addressed the nation soon again with the ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ gem on FDI and diesel price hike. And as Narendra Modi keeps taking pot shots at the ‘silence’ of the government, the latter seems to have taken a page out of Modi’s book in deciding to hold the first ever press conference by the Indian government on Twitter.
The advisor to the Prime Minister, Sam Pitroda, had announced a Twitter interaction – a lot like the one held by Narendra Modi on Google Hangout – where he intends to talk about the ‘democratisation of information’. Given that the PMO had blocked a few Twitter handles that were accused of impersonating the Prime Minister, this one should be interesting to tune into.
The PMO’s office wished Pitroda luck on Twitter. Given the flak the UPA government has become prone to drawing, Pitroda needs quite a bit of it!