The U.S. State Department’s TechCamp team returned to India after a 2 year hiatus, this time to New Delhi. Themed “Driving Dialogue with Digital”, TechCamp India was held in New Delhi on September 8-9, 2015, with the goal of raising the digital literacy of think-tanks, research organizations and advocacy groups in India.
There are some great minds in the Indian think-tank and academic community, doing some fantastic research. There is no lack of quality content being created, in various forms like reports, articles etc. But there is a need in India to improve the way this knowledge and the quality content is being shared/distributed. The Indian think-tank community is looking to better their digital footprint, and improve their digital communication strategies to reach out to and engage with the vast youth in India. With this in mind, the TechCamp brought together around 50 participants (think-tanks and advocacy groups) from all over India, and world-class technology trainers from all over the world (including local techies from India).
On the first day of the TechCamp, Dr. Sunjoy Joshi, Director at Observer Research Foundation welcomed participants and introduced the U.S. Ambassador to India, Rahul Verma, who delivered the Keynote address. A team from “Funny or Die” (a popular U.S. based comedy video website) shared ideas with the participants on incorporating humor in communication strategies. Also, David Nassar (The Brookings Institute) and Hari Sevugan (270 Strategies) led a session on “Media in the 21st Century” and took questions from the audience.
Two days of interactive trainings, discussions and brainstorming sessions at the TechCamp led to some creative/interesting outcomes. Training topics included online community building, leveraging social media, creative content using humor, visualizing content in interesting ways, using traditional media, digital storytelling, mobiles and online/offline engagement. The participants enthusiastically soaked in all the knowledge, and shared the results of their TechCamp learnings by giving creative/entertaining final presentations.
The outcomes included:
- Use of engaging and powerful infographics and interactive websites for effectively communicating research and promoting studies/reports related to boring issues.
- Creating a low-cost/effective social media strategy with limited resources, and using it to spur debates (and dispel some wrong notions) about the privacy on the internet.
- Developing a digital content strategy for expanding ones audiences to attend film screenings on environment and wildlife issues using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.
- Identifying the right target audience and reaching out to them effectively using mobile/social tools.
- Making data-driven infographics on accountability and governance more dynamic using effective digital storytelling strategies.
- Use of humor to discuss and foster conversations related to controversial/sensitive social issues.
Tom Smitham, the Deputy Coordinator for the International Information Programs at the U.S. State Department, actively participated in the TechCamp and delivered the closing remarks at the end of day 2. An impromptu dance by all participants capped off a great/high-energy/outcome-driven 2-day event.
TechCamp India was not the silver bullet, but it sure was a great platform to bring together smart/quality groups of people together, engage them in a meaningful/focused dialogue/trainings, and kick-start a conversation on the importance of digital communication strategies for a research/academic organization in India.