Over a billion people connected to each other in India (and beyond?) on Facebook. All I can say is good luck, Mark Zuckerberg! Or maybe not! Let’s face it, is this really going to help the vast majority of Indians living in rural villages with minimal access to reliable human and social service infrastructures. Maybe that is why this Facebook project is targeted to the larger numbers of mobile phone users in more urban settings. Mobile phone ownership and usage in India remains a privilege for the more economically empowered.
I think the reality of Indian history and the persisting disparity of resources between the “haves and have nots” presents a daunting challenge to anyone trying to use social media for real social and political change in such an ancient culture and economy. Perhaps I should be more optimistic as we approach a new year, and I stand ready to admit the error of my pessimism if things turn out the other way. Please believe me that I will gladly welcome any impact that results in new opportunities for upward mobility for those who have historically been told there is no upward path.
Gandhi led a peaceful revolution against foreign domination and freed his countrymen in the last century. I believe that the economic and social challenges ahead for India in this century and beyond can not be overcome by social media alone. True political leadership must seek to empower all Indians, regardless of their economic or social status.