Put country firmly on Internet and ‘get out of the way’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 20, 2013

Eric Schmidt, Chairman, Google Inc, with Som Mittal, President, Nasscom, during the launch of an initiative on Catalysing Tech Start-ups in India, in the Capital on Wednesday. — Kamal Narang

The government has to build the environment for creating the infrastructure to access the Internet and then “get out of the way” if it wants to capitalise on the opportunities provided by connectivity, feels Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Internet behemoth Google.

Interacting with editors and senior journalists on his first visit to India, the man who led Google’s transformation as its CEO for a decade from 2001 onwards, and is now engaging more with governments and lawmakers on policy issues as Google’s Chairman Schmidt was very clear on the role of telecommunications — and the Internet — in development. “You cannot run a modern country without a modern Internet,” he insisted.

Huge talent pool

Despite its huge pool of technical talent, and its many successes in the IT outsourcing space, India is missing a “huge economic opportunity” by not building on its potential as a “host nation” developing technologies and web-based services and solutions for the rest of the world, Schmidt felt.

Stating that Google was “strongly in favour of being here” (in India), Schmidt said there would be a transformation in the public space — and discourse — once access became widespread. “Right now, you have under 10 per cent of the population. Imagine what would happen if 80 per cent of the people can get on to the Internet.” For India to fully tap the potential of the Internet — from web-based education to delivery of services — it would have to create the right environment.

For Schmidt, that includes changing laws governing the use of the Internet — including free speech — which were “insufficiently precise” as of now. Asked to clarify, he cited the example of India’s Intermediate Liability Act, which holds companies such as Google responsible for the content put up by users.

Lift restrictions

His solution is to lift the restrictions. “The solution to bad speech is more speech — good speech,” he argued.

Pointing out that competition in the mobile space has already reduced the cost of access — and thus created more users — in India, Schmidt said the paradigm shift in Internet usage on mobile phones would happen as smartphones get cheaper. He said Google was working with manufacturers, including several in India and China, to develop cheap handsets running on Android platform.


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Published on March 20, 2013
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