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The High Tech Indian Election – lessons on Big Data, Social Media and 3D Holography

The recent national election in India that spanned over 5 weeks and concluded on May 12th. was unique in terms of  sheer numbers. The total size of the electorate was 815m (more than the population of USA and European Union combined), of which 550m actually voted. Half the electorate was below the age of 25 (voting age is 18). The sheer size and complexity was mind-boggling – it was the greatest democratic process on display!

The final results came out on May 16th., where the former opposition party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, or the Indian People’s party) had a land-slide victory, not seen in last 30 years. The leader of BJP is Mr. Narendra Modi, the chief minister (like a state Governor) of the state of Gujarat for last 13 years. He comes from a poor family and climbed up the ranks by sheer hard work and total focus on high growth development of his state. India puts a lot of hope on Mr. Modi to bring back speedy growth back to the economy.

Here I will point out how he used technology during the election.

Mr. Modi found a smart technologist from London specializing in 3D Holography. He experimented with that during the state elections in 2012 where his 3D holographic image was broadcasted to many locations simultaneously. The system was debugged and was ready for effective use this time – beaming his image in full 3D to 100s of locations thus reaching millions of people and conveying his message very effectively. Physically he spoke at over 400 rallies, and each one was attended by at least one million people or more. But combined with the virtual presence via holography, his outreach was the maximum compared to any other candidate. Such an experiment of using 3D Holography has never been used before in any election around the world.

The second approach was putting together a crack team of smart Data Scientists  who took a page from president Barack Obama’s election process. Data about the electorate was gathered and dissected like never before. Based on behavior and past preferences, they were segmented and targeted very carefully. This was a bottoms-up approach. Thousands of volunteers followed up the Big data analysis and reached out to the voters in a door-to-door fashion, thus influencing their choices. Without such analysis and pin-point targeting, this would have been impossible within such a short time-frame of 4 months. All this effort was focussed primarily on 2 major states (UP and Bihar) where BJP’s electoral victory was going to be the game-changer (as they had poor record in the past). The results came out as proof of the effectiveness of this approach – BJP got 71 out of 80 in UP, and 31 out of 40 in Bihar (totally beyond any projections and expectations).

The third focus was on fully exploiting the social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs. The urban population with access to the Internet were constantly reached out via these new communication tools. Mr. Modi has one the largest followings in Twitter and Facebook.

It was the clever use of technology by Mr. Modi’s team that clinched their unprecedented victory. The other contesting parties including the current ruling Congres party for last 10 years were nowhere in using technology and hence they lost badly.

Some lesson for all future elections!


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More Stories By Jnan Dash

Jnan Dash is Senior Advisor at EZShield Inc., Advisor at ScaleDB and Board Member at Compassites Software Solutions. He has lived in Silicon Valley since 1979. Formerly he was the Chief Strategy Officer (Consulting) at Curl Inc., before which he spent ten years at Oracle Corporation and was the Group Vice President, Systems Architecture and Technology till 2002. He was responsible for setting Oracle's core database and application server product directions and interacted with customers worldwide in translating future needs to product plans. Before that he spent 16 years at IBM. He blogs at http://jnandash.ulitzer.com.