Digital India achieved a rare thing last week: a show of collective support from Silicon Valley leaders including the executives of Cisco, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Google, Apple, and Facebook, all of whom gathered for a dinner meeting in San Jose to honor the visit of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Digital India, a top initiative of Modi’s, aims to empower every Indian with digital access and the knowledge and information that such access implies. With a completion goal of 2019, Digital India has three core components: the creation of digital infrastructure, the delivery of public services digitally and national digital literacy. Within these components, Digital India plans to ensure universal access to phones, create broadband highways, establish a public internet access program and focus on the creation of IT manufacturing and services jobs. The overall goal is to transform the country into a “digitally empowered knowledge economy,” while eliminating corruption, increasing efficiency, and reducing paperwork.
Prime Minister Modi has been in California campaigning for commitments from digital industry leaders and since the meeting in San Jose, tech giants have announced a number of specific supportive commitments to his initiative:
- Microsoft will work to bring low-cost broadband connectivity to 5,000 villages in India
- Google will set up free Wi-Fi at 500 railway stations
- Qualcomm will invest $150 million in Indian Startups
Google hosted an overnight Code for India hackathon in honor of the Prime Minister’s visit. Meanwhile, Apple has been invited to set up a manufacturing base in India and is exploring how Apple Pay could be used to boost financial inclusion in the country. And Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, while not making any specific commitments, changed his profile picture to the colors of Digital India.
In his comments at the San Jose gathering, Modi acknowledged that, while technology in the developing world typically remains concentrated in the hands of the powerful and wealthy, technology also has the power to “rapidly transform the lives of people on the margins and touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India and also change the way [India] will live and work.” Modi is the first Prime Minister to visit Silicon Valley in nearly three decades.