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Mark Zuckerberg’s tryst with India, Modi and 'Chandauli'

Alok Soni & Harshith Mallya
12th Oct 2014
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Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to India has created a lot of buzz both online and offline. The Facebook founder and CEO met the Indian Pime Minister and 'the social media politician', Mr. Narendra Modi in New Delhi during his visit. He was here for the two-day long Internet.org summit where he re-iterated his stance on why the world needs access to free Internet and the far reaching benefits of the same.

Blowing own trumpet

In his maiden official visit to India, Zuckerberg didn’t miss on blowing his own trumpet and mention all the great work Facebook has done to the humanity in the recent past. Zuckerberg seems confident about the revolutionary changes internet.org can bring to India and its capability to play the key role in India’s future. Here are few milestones achieved by the social media giant as shared by Zuckerberg:

  1. Over the last year we’ve been working to overcome the major barriers preventing more than 4 billion people from connecting to the internet.
  2. We announced the Connectivity Lab and our work on satellites and planes to overcome limits in physical infrastructure.
  3. We’ve built systems to make apps use less data, reducing your data bills.
  4. We’ve also partnered with operators to provide free basic services, including tools for health, education, jobs and communication in a few countries, starting with Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Paraguay and Zambia.

Facebook in India is working with Airtel to make internet.org a reality.

Mark Zuckerberg Interntorg
Mark Zuckerberg at Internt.org summit

Internet should be like 911 service, but...

Speaking at the Internet.org summit, Zuckerberg said,

 Free basic internet access should be like dialing 911 in the US or 100 in India.

But there are three major challenges here which prevent people from using the Internet:

  1. Infrastructural Challenges: Non existent or lack of proper Infrastructure in rural areas. Most of the rural population don’t live within range of 2G or 3G networks, and have no access to the internet and also lack other basic needs such as proper roads or electricity
  2. Economic Challenges: A majority of the world’s rural population live on less than 2 dollars a day. Hence even if mobile and Internet data prices were lowered, they would not be able to afford it. Also lowering rates beyond a certain limit would bring in challenges for Internet service providers who need to be able to sustain their own infrastructural and other costs.
  3. Social Challenges: One barrier we’re focusing on today is the lack of local language content in many developing countries. Today more than 80% of content on the internet is in just 10 languages, but a lot of countries in Asia and Africa aren’t well represented online. In India there are 22 official languages in 11 scripts, but still the majority of content and services are in English.

According to a research, 69% of people in India who do not use the internt at all,would say that they don’t know what they would do with the internet and could not find use for it because of these issues.

Modi’s bucket list for Zuckerberg


Narendra Modi mark zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed a wide range of issues revolving around the innovative use of Facebook as a platform to engage with a large audience in the service of humanity. However, Mr. Modi was clear on his agenda of promoting his campaigns for the development of India via Facebook. He spoke about the following possible contribution of Facebook towards the betterment:

  1. A lot of terrorist elements are using social media platforms to recruit members to join them. There is a need to think of the role social media can play to stop terror.
  2. Mr. Modi had used social media during campaigns such as tracking the missing children, during his tenure as CM and it gave wonderful results.
  3. To promote India’s rich tourist potential through Facebook.
  4. To look at how to enhance Internet literacy along with Internet connectivity.
  5. Swachh Bharat Mission: Mr. Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook wants to work with the Government of India in the fields of healthcare, education and provide a gamut of services to the people. Mr. Zuckerberg added that Facebook will help in the creation of the Clean India Mobile App and that it would be launched soon. This would give a strong impetus to the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  6. Digital India initiative: Prime Minister Shri Modi asked Mr. Zuckerberg to identify some domains of Digital India where Facebook can get involved and help.

Earlier this year, Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg had met the Indian Prime Minister where they had discussed plans to use Facebook for good governance and promoting tourism.

When Zuckerberg went to Chandauli

Facebook CEO also visited Chandauli yesterday. It's a small village and a very rural community situated about 150 miles from Delhi. He learnt that earlier this year Chandauli got connected to the internet. As a result, now hundreds of people -- from school children to seniors -- are learning how to use the internet to find information, access government services and connect with their friends and loved ones.

Mark-Zuckerberg-Chandauli
Mark Zuckerberg interacting with people in Chandauli

He mentioned,

Seeing first hand how people here are using the internet was an incredible experience. One day, if we can connect every village, we can transform many more lives and improve the world for all of us. Chandauli is just the start.
If we want to connect the world, then we need to build an internet that reflects the world.

[UPDATE] If these words from Mark are to be believed, it would be nothing short of a pleasant surprise to billions of people. At the same time, this might benefit Facebook with its PR strategy as well. Just a matter of time, when we'll witness the truth, either way it goes.

 

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