Bureaucracy’s digital challenge- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 2: Important aspects of governance- Transparency and accountability
- e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
Bureaucracy’s digital challenge- Context
- If civil servants don’t use social media appropriately, their role as independent advisers stands threatened.
Indian Bureaucracy- Shift from Desk to Digital
- This shift is in multiple areas like transition towards e-office and e-governance.
- Unaddressed Areas: The shift in organizational and bureaucratic response to digital spaces, especially the use of social media has largely been unaddressed.
Issue of using Social Media by Civil Servants
- Many support the use of social media by civil servants in their official capacity while many argue that anonymity, the defining feature of Indian bureaucracy, gets compromised in the process.
- Social Media vs Bureaucracy: Bothe are incompatible with each other.
- While bureaucracy is characterized by hierarchy, formal relationships and standard procedures, social media is identified by openness, transparency and flexibility.
- Use of social media for self-promotion: Social media is getting used by civil servants for self-promotion and justifies that in the name of accessibility and accountability.
- But it’s not the right way to ensure accountability and accessibility as civil servants are at an advantage to share the information they want and respond to those they want.
- It is not a formal set up where accessibility and accountability are based on uniformity of treatment.
- Issue with Anonymity and opaqueness: Anonymity and opaqueness have already been watered down through the Right to Information Act of 2005. But they continue to be prominent features.
- In the era of public governance, there is no sense for the bureaucracy to be habitually anonymous.
Positives of social media on governance
- Increased Accessibility: many civil servants have become accessible to the common people and public service delivery issues have been resolved through the use of social media.
- Builds trust and promotes openness: social media has also created a positive outlook towards an institution long perceived as opaque and inaccessible.
- Social media has increased awareness among people about government policies and programs.
- Social media provides an opportunity for bureaucrats to shape the public discourse and engage with the public while being politically neutral.
Bureaucracy and Social Media- Way Forward
- Bureaucracy as the epitome of public values and a storehouse of facts: shouldn’t be expected to govern in private, especially when both values and facts are getting reshaped due to fake news and systematic propaganda within public policy circles as well.
- Institutionalize the use of Social Media: as being done in many Westminster system-based countries.
- For instance, during the Brexit debate in the U.K., many civil servants shaped public debate through the use of social media even while remaining politically neutral.
- Social media accountability is no alternative to institutional and citizen-centric accountability: It is, in fact, partly unethical to use social media during office hours and justify it when some people who have traveled long distances are waiting outside the office.
- Bureaucrats should use social media to improve public policies. If they don’t use social media appropriately, their role as independent advisers stands threatened.