Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leveraging Web 2.0 to engage the Indian diaspora

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I have been writing about Web 2.0 and its potential (or the lack of it) as an effective 'engagement' tool. Last week I came across this really interesting Web 2.0 initiative by the Government of India to connect with the Indian diaspora overseas. Its called Global Indian Network of Knowledge (Global INK) which is a web portal for knowledge sharing and collaboration.

India has the second largest diaspora in the world (nearly 30 million strong) which meaningfully contributes to India’s development and progress. The World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, recently found that in 2008, overseas Indians sent home $58 billion in remittances alone to India. Though the remittance flow has been consistent, FDI flows from the diaspora, however, is yet to grow in a substantial manner. The government of India, has woken up to the potential of what the diaspora has to offer, and, the need to build a framework to engage the Indian diaspora proactively to expand their role in India’s growth story. India now has a full-fledged Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MoIA), to look into policy issues and services related to the diaspora. Government of India, has also launched a PPP initiative Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to promote ‘diasporic FDI’ and tap the diaspora’s potential in contributing to India’s economic development.

OIFC, for its part, have launched an initiative called Global Indian Network of Knowledge (Global INK) which is a dynamic and interactive web portal for knowledge sharing and collaboration. The objective of Global INK is provide a platform that, “endeavors to turn into "brain gain" what was for long seen as "brain drain", by drawing upon the knowledge reservoir of the India Diaspora in diverse fields.” The Indian diaspora, especially the one spread across North America and West Europe, comprises of highly educated and qualified professionals, academics and entrepreneurs that can help India ideate, innovate, create and sustain the growth momentum. This potential was partly realized in the tremendous progress India has made in telecommunications and IT/ITeS sector. For example, people like Sam Pitroda were instrumental in the modernization and development of India’s telecommunications sector and was an important advisor in PM Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet. Global INK, therefore, aims to tap into this knowledge base. This is also one of the many initiatives of the government to ‘ready’ India to be a leading player in the knowledge economy drawing upon the skills, experience and knowhow of the diaspora in developed economies. (Another recent measure is the Global Advisory Council constituted in Jan 2009.)

The OIFC website mentions that: “The online web portal, Global INK as it evolves, will be a framework of moderated communities catering to different focus areas. The Communities will provide a context to connect knowledge experts with knowledge seekers. Its key features are:

· It will provide a powerful search engine to connect quickly with the knowledge artifact

· The Communities will provide an array of collaboration tools such as blogs, forums, online resource databases, etc

· It will be equipped with advanced professional networking feature, ‘Connect’”

Its encouraging to see that the government of India seeks to leverage Social media/Web 2.0 and all its elements – search, network, discuss, connect – to engage the diaspora. I also feel this would also serve as the funnel through which OIFC, will eventually bring the diaspora ‘in’ for investments into India. I would be really interested to know if other countries, with a large diaspora, have initiated such measures. Take a look at Global INK’s website

Suggestions/Critiques welcome



Babeeta Dhillon said... [Reply to comment]

very interesting observation while most countries are using the web 2.0 to strengthen their relations in other countries, India is using it to strengthen their diaspora community.
Question. do you happen to know India's public diplomacy strategies from the 70s to 90s? or refer a book to me. Thanks.

Madhurjya Kotoky said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Babeeta:

Many thanks for your observation. To answer your question on PD strategies for India -

1. The potential of PD has not been realized in India. One of the reason I can think of is might be because it is not yet an advanced communications society like US. However, the potential of communication is being realized in this country.

2. Most PD efforts were focused on cultural diplomacy etc. not to "generate influence" but to "attract." PD has been an overall component of diplomacy but not a practice like USIA used to do prior to Bush.

3. So there never has been a consistent strategy but definitely ad-hoc components.

4. Its only recently the MEA has opened a public diplomacy division within the ministry. (In 2006)You might find the following link useful.

5. Also look at the MEA's website. There are some whitepapers.

Hope this was helpful.

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