by December 7, 2013 0 comments

Let’s refresh ourselves first with social media usage in India, and across the globe:

  • India has a 74% literate population, 60% of which is between 15-60 years of age.
  • There are some 940 million mobile users and 150 million internet users.
  • The teledensity in India is 73% and broadband connections are expected to touch 22 million in 2014. 45% of internet usage is in Asia, while Europe consumes 21.5%.
  • India adds 15 lakh mobiles every month and 14 lakh internet users every year.
  • There has been a 91% increase in Facebook users in the past 12 months. Also, out of the 153 million total Facebook users, 60% are in India.

Social media – an open-ended world
In contrast to the above data, there are just around 9.3 L personnel in the central armed police forces who man both the borders and take care of the internal security. In addition, they have to counter the threats posed by the virtual world, which is a completely different game altogether. In social media there are no rules, no control on information and everybody is a self journalist. This is in contrast to the old days where journalists knew the rules of the game and were predictable and professional in their conduct. In India there are 72 million Facebook users and 20 million Linkedin users. 96% of the overall objective of using social media is to build communities. And this provides new opportunities for law enforcement agencies. They can now source info from a crowd of people and get into small to big events on the net. As you probably know that more people are using social media to challenge those in authority. This makes it imperative for the police to understand the pulse of the people. This will help enhance transparency, provide a close working relationship between police and citizens, reduce tensions especially communal tensions, and spread awareness on crime.

Social media platforms: partners in policing
Police depts globally are using social media to provide police activity updates, traffic, road and crime updates. They should aggressively engage with public, seek community support, suggestions and complaints, and seek reports on crimes. Key areas where police can effectively use social media are:
1. To counter rumours, share information on missing persons, etc.
2. Create awareness on key issues.
3. Crisis management – people want information fast and directly, plus it should be reliable. Social media provides a great platform.
4. Managing relationships with citizens – feedback on police reaches senior officers directly. This ensures trust and criticisms are directed directly to decision makers and avoids situations like the one in Bangalore recently when a China quake victim photo was used to instigate people to leave Bangalore. Some 30k people left Bangalore as a consequence.
5. Neighbourhood policing, intelligence gathering, reports and alerts are sent not only to the police but also to other members on the network.
6. Publicising incidents and investigations: police can send out photos, mails, etc out on the media.

Building an effective social media strategy
The police needs to create effective social media management cells. For this, you need dedicated and well-trained staff in social media. No piece meal approach shall work here. Next, use the social media platform effectively by actively engaging with citizens and carrying out all activities as discussed above. A key point to note here is the importance of allocating budget to cover tech and procurement costs. It is also the responsibility of police to provide clarity around the legal framework in using social media to prevent and solve crimes. This would encourage citizens to come forward as witnesses in appeals without fear of reprisals. Lastly, I would say work with key social media community partners in forging effective working relationships that would help you get critical information in time and prevent crisis situations from spiralling out of control.

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