Modi effect: Silicon Valley giants commit to Digital India

Thomas K Thomas San Jose | Updated on January 22, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with (from left) Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in San Jose, on Saturday PTI

Microsoft, Google, Qualcomm announce India-specific initiatives

Silicon Valley’s tech giants have evinced interest in Narendra Modi’s Digital India and Smart Cities projects and committed to participate in them, during an interaction with the Prime Minister on Saturday.

While Google plans to enable Wi-Fi Internet to 500 railway stations, Microsoft said it wants to help the government take low-cost broadband to five lakh villages. Microsoft is also making India its hub for cloud services through data centres located in the country.

Chip-maker Qualcomm announced a $150 million fund for start-ups in India and Facebook has started a project to enable Wi-Fi hotspots in rural India.

The announcements came after Modi met top executives from these companies on Saturday. Later in the day, while speaking at the Digital India event in San Jose, California, Modi credited the technology firms for ushering in social change.

Fundamental change

“When a small craftsman in a village in India brings a smile to a customer looking at his phone on a metro ride in New York; when a heart patient in a remote hospital in the Kyrgyz Republic is treated by doctors sitting in Delhi, as I saw in Bishkek, we know we are creating something that has fundamentally changed our lives,” Modi said to an audience comprising the who’s who of the tech world. “All this is because of the work you people are doing,” he added.

Inviting the tech companies to participate in India’s growth story, Modi said: “From creating infrastructure to services, from manufacture of products to human resource development, from supporting governments to promoting digital literacy, Digital India is a vast cyber world of opportunities for you.”

Punch lines

Modi’s speech was laced with one-liners that drew laughter from the audience. “If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one and the most connected. Google today has made teachers less awe-inspiring and grandparents more idle. Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Modi met Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla founder Elon Musk. During the 15-minute meeting with Cook, Modi explored ways to use Apple Pay for Jan Dhan Yojna.

During the meeting with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Modi discussed the possibility of bringing Tesla’s revolutionary battery technology to India. The meeting focused on adapting and obtaining the company’s “Powerwall” invention for India, as a long-term storage device for solar energy,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Sharing the vision

The tech honchos reacted positively to Modi’s visit. “We share the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy,” Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs said.

Microsoft’s Nadella said, “We believe low-cost broadband connectivity coupled with the scale of cloud computing and the intelligence that can be harnessed from data can help drive creativity, efficiency and productivity across governments and businesses of all size. This, is turn, will create global opportunities for India.”

Published on September 27, 2015

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