This week, the Asian Development Bank embarked on the most tedious hour of interaction ever visited upon the internet.

Via Twitter and an online chat forum, the organisation invited the public to ask its experts questions on trade, financial markets and geopolitical concerns.

It took a full 11 minutes to answer the first question, inquiring after the possibility of an Asian single currency. After an interminable pause, during which one could imagine the wonks feverishly crafting and redrafting their 140 character response, their conclusion, unsurprisingly, was an unequivocal “hell no, no way, not any time soon.”

After more turgid inquiries about food prices and the risk of contagion from the European crisis, as well as speculation about the future of ASEAN, it became clear that the cyber-participants were not young, interested global citizens, but professionals with a deep professional interest in the ideas of the ADB.

Our eager experts at the ADB were not busy inspiring a new generation of budding economists; they were wasting time preaching to the converted.

Once again, a half-baked PR stunt orchestrated to help make an organisation seem in-touch and modern ends up looking lame and inane.

What is it with these institutions? To connect meaningfully with the public, more is required than fumblingly logging into Twitter.

If such attempts at communicating aren’t simply ignored by the target audience, they’re roundly ridiculed by said tech-savvy youngsters, as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, found out to his cost last week.

His monthly Twitter Q&A was hijacked by thousands of wondrously comedic spammers, who eschewed such issues as the upcoming Olympics, London’s decrepit transport system or the astronomical cost of housing in the capital, and went straight for the jugular.

“Which would you prefer? To be attacked by a dozen duck sized horses or attacked by one horse sized duck?” asked one Twitter wit. “Did you ever get ‘crumpeted’ at Eton? Did it make your eyes water?” inquired another.

“How many malteasers can you fit in your mouth at one time?”

“Should the descriptor “hot” be standardised across all chilli-based sauces?”

“Have you ever completed the arcade version of Sega Rally?”

Sadly, Boris dodged these entertaining queries, just as he avoided the few detailed and serious questions about the big issues facing Londoners. The general consensus among followers after the event was that the whole affair was a charade, set up to create a mere illusion of accessibility and transparency.

There are lessons that were hopefully learned by Boris, the ADB and all those watching last week: using a youthful and widely used medium doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be able to effectively communicate with a wide audience of young people about the issues that you want to talk about.

It’s the equivalent of interrupting play the Superbowl with a megaphone to talk about the latest classical album from the Berlin Philharmonic. There’s a time and a place for political and intellectual interaction and unless you’re seriously savvy, Twitter isn’t it.


  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National