2014 General Elections, Your Vote Matters

 How would you inspire and mobilize India’s youth 
to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps? 

2014 is special for India! There will be ‘general elections’ for the election of members of Parliament for the 16th Lok Sabha in another few months. The contest will be for 543 constituencies and the magic figure to form a government will be 272 seats. According to the Election Commission an estimated 778 million voters are eligible to vote in 2014 and out of this an estimated 17 million are first time voters around the age of 18 or 19.

Approximately 160 of the 543 constituency are urban (digital) constituency. The urban constituencies form more than 13% (165 million) of the Indian population who are internet users. Most of them belong to the younger generation who access internet through mobiles and one can confidently say 100% of them are social media users in one form or another.

If any single party can win more than 50% of these urban seats, half the battle is won! The urban youth can easily tilt the balance in favor of any political party. The biggest challenge however is to get them to vote!

Stage 1: Inspire With Social Mobile Apps
Quite a few apps concerning general elections of 2014 are out in market. The common features in them are:

  • Mock elections,
  • History of political parties
  • Contestant’s educational qualifications
  • Party videos
  • Facebook fan page links
  • boring information
  • more boring information

These are information packed, but there is nothing in these apps that will inspire a young person in late teens or first timers to vote.

Every youth has different requirements, different queries and different worries. There is NO ‘one issue’ that can inspire the youth to vote. There is NO particular pattern. Occasionally an incident crops up which unite the youth, like the recent episode of rape in the capital. They become overwhelmed fast, they are emotional and often fail to see the bigger picture. Add to that a major chunk of youth population today spends time hooked to social networking site ‘facebook’, microblogging site ‘twitter, mobile messaging service like ‘WhatsApp’. Ask them and they will tell you how comfortable they are interacting in these sites with the apps. In this digital scenario if the youth have to be inspired to vote, these modern tools of communication have to be harnessed properly.

Youth today view voting more as a personal choice than as a duty. If they are to be de-addicted from their various activities and distractions, voting for elections should be made equally enticing. Efforts should be made using these social mobile tools and apps to make voting look shiny to them. The first timers, the smartphone wielding cool dudes are often clueless
what the live issues of election are. They do not have much idea about
the party policies. Therefore: create awareness, bring info to their finger tips.

To inspire them to vote bring out issues that are more relevant to them. Concrete issues like employment opportunities, higher education, healthcare, falling rupee value can evoke their interest. Last, but not the least  inspire youth to vote by making the voting procedure simple. It is late for 2014 elections, but for future, steps should be taken to facilitate voting through mobile phones.

Social Mobile Apps To Inspire: Features
An ‘apps’ to inspire youth have to be more honest. There should be information about failures and areas where politicians have failed to deliver. The youth have to be shown what was the progress made in different fields in the last five years. Information about various bills and their advantages. 

Does the youth really know the power of bills like: Right To Information (RTI), Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB), Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill (WPB), Public Grievances Bill (PGB)? An 18 year old just out of college, a science student, a smartphone wielding fashion conscious youth, not yet in tax payers’ bracket; does he/she know the policies that will effect his/her future?

I strongly feel information on these areas can evoke a ‘thinking process for the society’ in them. In my opinion these apps and features in apps should be available for FREE for every cool dude:

  • An apps to “CHECK FACTS” claimed by politicians
  • An apps about effects of various bills like: RTI, JLB, WPB, PGB
  • Form youth councils to discuss and exchange ideas on these bills
  • An apps about manifestos of different parties and who supports those bills
  • Detailed information about parties like their ‘facebook page’, ‘twitter handle’, ‘google hangouts’
  • Failures of parties and their leaders in the last 5 years
  • Parties that have given tickets to criminals
  • A feature to write opinions on leaders and their promises and access to opinions written by other users
  • A feature which highlights problems faced by youth in the constituency from issues like good colleges for higher education, good roads, good transport systems, to law and order problems like safety of women
  • An option for “LIVE CHAT” with contestants of the constituency
  • YouTube videos of inspiring youngsters like Virat Kohli, Pariniti Chopra etc asking the cool kids to vote

For the first timers, those in their late teens, who prefer to keep their mobiles within earshot than their helicopter parents, it would be wise to forward links to like relevant facebook pages. Since wordy, verbal lectures on these subjects will be boring to the youngsters, they can be guided to follow various contestants of their areas. Encourage them to voice opinions and questions on trending topics. Each student leader can form a team, connect with other students, and message them of issues concerning student life, hold group chats for sharing info on contestants. Get ambassadors like Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone to chat about elections.

Stage 2: Mobilize With Apps
We as elders have to understand one fact well: If we don’t get the young kids to vote we will be seeing them regret for it later. Chances are more corruption will set in; more criminals will be in parliament. Civic duty is never very appealing, particularly to this group in ‘late teens’. The campaign to vote for 2014 elections should drive in the fact that these issues matter. It will do them good if they choose who represents their views. They have to be convinced “something actually happens when you vote”.

A common platform that can serve the purpose to mobilize is ‘facebook’. Proper structured facebook page, with valid vital information regarding elections can reach millions at the click of a key! A facebook page “KNOW THE CONTESTANTS” can have all relevant information about the candidates. Or a facebook page “YOUR VOTE MATTERS” can have information regarding all policies and acts. Having done that, the next logical step will be to gather ‘likes’.

Facebook is one platform where user expresses likes and dislikes, there is yet another category of users who like to listen and follow. It is this third category whose interest has to be kept live. Often they have to be directed, they have to be gently prodded to elicit responses, else they go to sleep mode.

There are plenty of apps that can be downloaded for free. Some of them like WhatsApp has 30 million users in India, 15 million Viber
users. These apps can help teams connect with potential voters. FB page
should be updated with targeted content which will elicit responses in
the form of questions and doubts. Messages, information and status
statements can be forwarded through free calls, group chats, text
messages and sms.

Teams like “I AM VOTING, ARE YOU?” and keep the motivation to vote alive. Keep the timeline and newsfeed alive with updates. The constraint is these are available to smartphone users, but then it
is these smartphone users who are notoriously infamous for their
absenteeism!

Managing Facebook Pages 

 Teams should be formed with specific roles;

  • one team can have good ‘posting management’
  • another can take the role of ‘following up the comments’
  • regularly post relevant content with engaging photos
  • yet another connect with contestants and get them to post on the FB page,
  • interlink twitter and FB,
  • interlink with various social mobile apps
  • increase the level of familiarity by mentioning contestants’ names often in twitter messages. Such messages may be short but have more impact.

Arrange interactive sessions with the candidates on the page. This will
help plug the gap between voters and contestants. Schedule something
like CWC – CHAT WITH CONTESTANT or F2F – FACE TO FACE. Popularize the event by tweeting with
names of candidates. If live interaction is not possible, then load
‘YouTube’ with videos of their speeches at political rallies. Use chat
option to give more personal touch while resolving negative posts. Fix
something like five students with best questions will be allowed for F2F
with contestants. Invite followers to comment on policies.

Stage 3: Go Vote

This is something basic, but you have to tell the voter: where to vote, when to vote and how to vote. Sustained efforts by activists with social media apps can give the final outline to the campaign for cool kids to show up. Let the mobiles keep pinging. Teams can take the duty to ping with following:

  • Keep sending day reminders as the day approaches and hourly reminders on the day prior to the final day.
  • Remind them to take their photo ID
  • Message the location of polling booths,
  • Send images of route maps
  • Mention helpline numbers to contact in case stuck in traffic.
  • Brief explanation of ‘Electronic voting machine’
  • Brief explanation  of ‘how to vote’
  • Brief explanation if ‘choice is to be changed’

Just a few words of caution, don’t get preachy. Overload of information, more than what can be assimilated can be confusing to young minds. Let the love not die out!

Nymphaea Pubescens
Happy New Year - 2014

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