India needs to change some of its “insufficiently precise” laws on Internet usage to encourage greater private sector participation in the creation of Internet infrastructure and Internet-based services, said Eric Schmidt, Chairman of search giant Google.

On his first visit to India, Mr. Schmidt, who described Google’s relations with the government as “good”, made a strong pitch for the government creating an enabling environment and then “get out of the way” if it wants to capitalise on the opportunities provided by truly widespread Internet access.

At an interaction with media editors, Mr. Schmidt argued, “You cannot run a modern country without a modern Internet.” He led Google’s transformation as its CEO for a decade since 2001 and is now engaging more with governments and lawmakers on policy issues as Google’s Chairman.

Admitting that from a “political perspective”, governments everywhere would like to “shape criticism”, he felt 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 using the Internet. Imagine what would happen if 80 per cent of the people can get on to the Internet,” he said.

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, he argued. That includes changing laws governing the use of the Internet. He cited the example of India’s Intermediate Liability Act, which holds companies like Google responsible for the content put up by users.

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

Insisting that China was the “exception” because it actively censored content on the Web, he said Google’s policy was to remove any content violative of either local laws or against its terms of service. India lodged the second highest number of requests to take out “offensive” content last year, second only to the United States.