In the upcoming Lok Sabha next year, Bharatiya Janata Party is planning to use technologies such as free and open-source software, which will bring video conferencing, Internet telephony and unified communication to approximately four million party workers by the year 2011.
The Party plans to provide virtual private network, enabling information sharing and communication to its 35 party state offices before the 2009 elections. Mobile phones will be the the medium through which the 500 local party offices will get connected throughout India and also individual party members. A national data centre in new Delhi will maintain the the central database of active party members.
Speaking on the occasion, Prodyut Bora, Convenor of BJP's Information Technology (IT) cell says that, “We are looking to optimize both party-to-member and party-to-public communication. For example, in three years, any party member, after authentication, will be able to call a number from any PCO (Public Call Office), and have his email read out to him through an automated system.”
“Open-source software gives you a greater flexibility and allows for very precise customization,” says Sidharth Gupta, Troop Software, an open-source solutions provider working with BJP on its internal communication system.
Sitaram Chamarty, a senior IT professional and open-source expert based in Hyderabad says, “This wide-ranging use of open source is significant because most organizations who look for open-source solutions tend to go piece by piece. They are reluctant to put, at once, all their eggs in the open-source basket, even though they eventually realize that they work on par with proprietary solutions”.
Open-source has cost-benefit advantages as well. In the case of open-source there is no incremental cost per user for the software. The cost does not increase with the increase in the number of users.
Vijay Shukla, CEO, ValueFirst, a mobile data services firm that is working with the BJP on its distributed mobile messaging model says, “The technology will allow for any party member to receive messages sent out from the party office, including, say, (those on) the party's stand on issues, or information on events”.
The Party also plans to develop an “Emergency Response System” which will have direct linkages with the district and local offices and the party's central headquarters. Such a system is expected to make communication quite instantaneous allowing immediate unfiltered feedback from the field in times of an emergency.
BJP was among the first political parties of the country to adopt technology for electioneering purposes and they set up a technology-heavy war-room for the 2004 polls. Apart from this, the party had also used telemarketing in the 2004 polls with voters across the country receiving calls on their phones which had a pre-recorded message from then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.