Government access: Google+ Hangout lets Indians discuss national budget with finance minister

Government access: Google+ Hangout lets Indians discuss national budget with finance minister

Google is making a push to promote its services in Facebook-mad India after arranging a number of initiatives with the government around its annual Union Budget.

India’s 60 million plus Facebook users makes it the Menlo Park-based company’s third largest country market — behind only the US and Brazil — but Google is using the Hangout feature of Google+ to provide a platform to get Indians more closely involved in the 2013 Budget.

Union Budget is essentially a public broadcast of the country’s budget, as the name suggests. This year, Google streamed a live feed of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s February 28 presentation over YouTube — via its IN conversation channel — and it is taking things further, and more interactive, with a Google+ hangout to discuss the event.

Today — March 4 — at 8:00 pm IST, Chidambaram will be joined by “a group of esteemed panelists”, which include Jahangir Aziz, Senior Asia Economist and India Chief Economist at JP Morgan, and Google’s Amit Singhal, and a number of regular Indian citizens who were selected after submitting questions for the group.

Google is encouraging Indians to submit questions via the #askthefm hashtag on Google+ for a chance to see them asked to the minister. More adventurous users can even upload video questions (tagged with #askthefm) via or the IN Conversation YouTube channel.

Hangouts are regularly used to help promote Google+ and bring citizens closer to key events or action. While discussing the budget may not appeal to everyone (although it really should), this is a great example of the kind of access that new technology, and social media in particular, can provide.

Even five years ago it would have been unthinkable that the average person could potentially reach an elected official to discuss key national topics with such ease, and in a visual and interactive way.

Any new sign-ups or users that rediscover the Google+ platform as a result of the Budget efforts will be a bonus for Google.

Past high profile Hangouts have included multiple audiences with US President Obama, the candidates of Japan’s recent prime ministerial election and Khan Academy founder Salman Khan. The Google+ feature has even helped unite a father and son that never met.

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