July 22, 2016

Politicians and Digital Education

If last week we tackled the ”Bored of Democracy” Syndrome and its issues, we’re shifting to a more optimist tone today. Seeing that online engagement became a barometer for politicians and how relationships with their voters look like, we came to think: are politicians now using social media only to market their image? Is everything yet again oriented only around the candidate and not so focused on voters and their pressing needs?

When we think of South America we think of colorful politics, interesting social and political dynamics and numerous changes in ideologies and economical debates. A continuing conflict between Left and Right, with pretty much all the countries of the continent taking part in fierce battles between ideologies with revolutions and coup d’états. But in 2016, things have cooled down. With a few controversies in countries such as Brazil, Latin America has its rare gems of politicians that still understand the value of communicating and, yes, educating their electorate.

And off we go to Ecuador now, to talk a little bit about Rafael Correa, president of the country. Economist by profession, formed in the University of Illinois, he first became Minister of Finance in 2005. Using his strategy to default on loans and renegotiate their repayment he slowly, but surely built a reputation as an efficient governor. He portrayed himself as an adversary of the Neo-liberal ideology that was governing Ecuador until that time and he positioned himself as a challenger of the establishment when campaigning for presidency. On October 15, 2006 he got elected as president with 56.67% of the registered votes. With all the digital age shenanigans going on, he still maintained his economist allure.

STEREOTYPE ALERT! Economists generally like to talk a lot and offer explanations for many things that happen in our day-to-day world. Make an economist a top elected politician and he will literally teach you how to govern your own country. Bring in the digital means of communication and you have him explaining technical, somewhat abstract, but extremely useful stuff to a wide audience.

Rafael Correa is that type of politician. The one that listens and also talks with his supporters. Firstly, he is pretty popular on Facebook with a community of more than 1.3 Million followers. He has a large audience and an interesting way of communicating, not only for his external official meetings or achievements, but also for documenting his own policies and government decisions.

He almost always shares his public speeches, especially academic lectures, like he did with a recent one from Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral. As easy as learning how to ride a bike, Rafael Correa shows us that there is nothing – regarding macroeconomics – that the ordinary voter can’t understand. And that’s how he came up with the idea behind his platform: Economia en Bicicleta.

Focusing his lectures on macroeconomics, he introduces people into quite technical subjects like GDP formulas, deconstructing them and explaining them in detail to his audience. And if you want to find out more about his economic endeavors, follow his hashtag #EconomiaconRafael.

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Screen from one of Correa’s lectures

Besides being a total game changer in politics, Rafael introduced his socialist policies and registered an excellent spending rate during his mandate. He shifted the educational system towards bringing more quality in public schools. Ecuador is the first country in South America in terms of education spending, for example. He announces all milestones of his governance – such as improving wages or investments in the education system – on his official website keeping voters constantly informed.

Moving on to a more mainstream area of politics, the one that is always on the news no matter in which corner of the planet you may live. Still in search of an online approach that aims to teach voters a few basic things about politics, we thought of Hillary Clinton. As many voices in the public and media condemn the rise of populism during elections, we can see her taking a stand and communicating to voters in a heartfelt and reasonable way. She constantly gives voters a reminder on how a politician in a high function should act.

For example, she constantly fact checks what other fellow colleagues say on Facebook (of course, using a platform that reaches as many people as possible). One post states: “Fact check: The Republican National Convention speakers are lying to America—at least 67 times so far.”. The post will send you to The Briefing, her online tool for informing voters on her program for economic growth and also educating her voters on how important American issues should be discussed.

From her recent ”The Role Model” ad to her video showcasing her staff naming each of Donald Trump’s lawsuits, Hillary knows how it’s done when it comes to being straightforward and just all in all transparent with her electorate. She listens, she gives back and she shows you, the voter, how things really are.

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Screenshot from Hillary’s new ad, The Role Model

Next off, you guys probably know His Excellency, Mister Social Media, right? He had a blog post long time ago as he became India’s prime-minister. Yes, it’s Narendra Modi – with the second biggest fan base on social media, after Barack Obama. His Facebook page grew exponentially, having a superior dynamic unlike other Indian politicians. Considered a pioneer in the Asian digital politics, Narendra Modi knows how to capture the attention of his electorate and supporters.

#TransformingIndia is his “trademark hashtag” in communicating online. Branding his entire communication that way not only keeps people constantly informed, but also engaged. Modi aims to transform this country and make it a better place for its citizens and takes its electorate together with him on this journey of building a better society.

Organizing content per weeks, with hashtags and presenting everything in a highly visual manner is Narendra Modi’s way of making it easy for voters to understand what is happening not only in the political system, but also with their entire country. Not to mention that he must have a fierce content calendar, since he posts daily, even more than once a day. #topthatoff

Narendra Modi-Majoritas-Politics-Infographics

Coming back to our question in the beginning of this post, not everything is lost. There are still politicians that understand the importance of educating their electorate (totally not in a condescending way, of course). But it is an approach we still rarely see in the online environment. It is a shift from the classical – “working on my personal and political image” to a more personal and transparent approach that gives a reason and draws an outcome for every move a politician makes and how it will impact voters all around. Correa explains why Neo-Liberalism was bad and why his economic approach is better. Hillary shows you how balance is important in any political discourse and Modi is frequently, almost daily explaining what’s happening with the development of India.

For more politicians taking the role of educators stick to our blog.