Modi teams up with Twitter to launch new service

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has teamed up with Twitter to launch a new service that allows government officials to send tweets via SMS in a move to boost e-governance in the world's largest democracy.

The service called Twitter Samvad – which means dialogue in Hindi – was unveiled by CEO Dick Costolo and Modi late Tuesday in New Delhi and is part of the government's Digital India program to transform the nation into a digitally empowered society.

A social media aficionado, Modi is known for his active presence on Twitter, amassing 10.9 million followers since joining the microblogging site in 2009. He is the second most followed politician behind U.S. President Barack Obama.


Twitter's bullish breakout
Twitter's bullish breakout   

By enabling tweets to be sent out as an SMS, any Indian with a mobile device, with or without a data plan, is able to receive messages from political leaders and government bodies. Mobile users can activate the service through a missed call to an assigned phone number.

"People who sign up will receive a set of curated Tweets based on the highest engagement throughout the day to stay up-to-date with real-time information about government-related news, policies and activities," Twitter said.

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"And you can use Twitter Samvad during emergency situations to receive live updates from government bodies, such as time-sensitive information and details about rescue efforts," it said.

So far, a total of 16 political leaders and ministries are linked up to Twitter Samvad. Modi was the first leader to kick off the service.

Twitter Samvad is built on the technology of ZipDial, a Bangalore-based mobile marketing and analytics company that Twitter acquired in January.

Political parties including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress partnered with Twitter and ZipDial to offer a similar service during 2014's general election to make their Twitter accounts accessible to all mobile users in India.

More recently, some local news outlets offered SMS tweets during the presentation of the government's annual budget on February 28.

Twitter's service of SMS tweets activated by a missed call is currently only available in India although the company is looking to roll out the service in other emerging markets.