Socio-political innovations: Making social media responsible
ISLAMABAD: Social media can play a constructive role by streamlining the development discourse in a demand-oriented, inclusive and people-friendly direction. This was the underlying theme of “Promoting Development Discourse through Social Media”, a moot held at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.
Although the use of social media is more common among the urban-centric youth, they agreed that attempts of the state to blackout news from areas such as Balochistan and other conflict-hit regions can now be countered by informal reporting through such means.
Media analyst Raza Rumi said that social media is an opportunity for the development community to get feedback for projects and also collaborate and advocate its cause by showcasing the humanistic side of that development.
“Social media as a communication tool is successful in generating unprecedented debate among the public. However, development discourse has also been reshaped in different forms to fill information gaps in the realms of disaster management and public accountability by promoting freedom of speech.”
To back his notion, Rumi cited the examples of policy makers, politicians and donors who are using this medium not only for public outreach, but also to empower their followers by promoting their manifestos.
SDPI Deputy Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed spoke about non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) role in the use of social media. He said that social media was not merely the use of social networking sites, but when used creatively, these tools can maximise a message’s outreach and impact. He shared the example of Khan Academy as a form of online communication that provides education.
Amena Aly Kamaal, the founding director of Strategic Communications, added that privacy concerns while using social media can be discouraging. “If this aspect is not addressed in a proper way, it can have adverse affects on the goals you are pursuing through this medium,” she commented.
But she was also of the view that online media has helped enhance social interaction, which can also leads to gaining the trust and faith of people. “The more your client or follower is getting in contact with you, the more he will be concerned to invest his valuable time and effort in your organisation.”
Kamal said how one uses social media depends on their objectives and goals because one must know the intended goals while campaigning. “And don’t expect miracles from such mediums,” she concluded.
Shirin Gul, a digital anthropologist and social behavior analyst at Mindmap Communications, discussed the impractical role of non-trained social media experts who are not fully-aware of development issues. “There is an urgent need to recognise that the discourse about development sector on social media should be research-oriented and dialogue-based,” she urged.
During the question-and-answer session, Kamal replied to a question by saying social media was not only a forum of information, but can also empower people.
Rumi also asserted that social media cannot play the role of delivering tangible results, but it can lead to a way forward.