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Modi boots up ‘Digital India’ with high-profile Silicon Valley show

He pitched to take India to the next stage of development through policy campaigns like Digital India and Make in India.

September 27, 2015 02:50 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:34 pm IST - San Jose

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Digital India and Digital Technology dinner function in San Jose on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Digital India and Digital Technology dinner function in San Jose on Saturday.

It was a full-throttle Modi speech: arcing through carefully-crafted allegory, then deliberating slowing through serious turns of argument before gracefully finishing on a note of optimism and thunderous applause from a full house.

Welcome to Modi-U.S. 2.0, the Silicon Valley saga.

In it, the Prime Minister was not only at his oratorial best during a “Digital India” dinner, but he also appeared to strike a deep chord with the community there, building on the same diaspora ties that he did one year ago in Madison Square Garden but also weaving in the narrative of economic transformation through spurring entrepreneurship and technology innovation, themes that are the very heartbeat of the Valley.

There were >zingers aplenty , although many evoked, in a lighter vein, a sense of gradual progress rising from the very grassroots of India, and one that was increasingly engaging with all platforms of social media and digital technology.

“The status that now matters is not whether you are awake or asleep, but whether you are online or offline,” he quipped, adding “The most fundamental debate for our youth now is the choice between Android, iOS or Windows.”

In humour-cloaked praise of the tech companies whose bosses sat on the stage with him, Mr. Modi said, “Google today has made teachers less awe-inspiring and grandparents more idle. Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter. The traffic lights that need to work the best are on CISCO routers.”

Throwing a bone to California he said, “It is one of the last places in the world to see the sun set, but it is here that new ideas see the first light of the day.”

But the true meat of Mr. Modi’s pitch to the gathering of tech elites on Saturday evening was his promise to take India up to the next stage of its development, a vision that he intended to achieve through policy campaigns such as Digital India and Make in India.

“As our economy and our lives get more wired, we are also giving the highest importance to data privacy and security, intellectual property rights and cyber security,” the Prime Minister explained, adding that his administration hoped to transform governance and make it “more transparent, accountable, accessible and participative.”

Mirroring some of the views expressed by the tech CEOs Mr. Modi said his government seeking to expand the availability of public Wi-Fi hotspots.

“For example, we want to ensure that free Wi-Fi is not only there in airport lounges, but also on our railway platforms. Teaming up with Google, we will cover 500 railway stations in a short time,” he said.

India would also seek to provide Internet broadband connection to all schools and villages, Mr. Modi said, adding, “Building I-ways are as important as highways.”

Placing the entire digital campaign in context the Prime Minister said it was possible to rapidly transform the lives of people on margins and “touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India as also change the way our nation will live and work.”

Digital India, a project aiming to bridge the digital divide and promote digital literacy, would rely upon the concept of mobile governance to make development a truly inclusive and comprehensive mass movement. “It puts governance within everyone’s reach,” he said.

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