For Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, India is more than just a big market. It is a test bed where he hopes to enable the development of tools and ideas that can be useful for the entire world.
To make this happen, Mr. Zuckerberg announced a million dollar fund to start an innovation challenge in India. The fund will be made available to developers of applications, websites and online services that improve lives of women, students, farmers and migrant workers.
“Because India has embraced science, research and development, benefits of bringing connectivity to India are going to be profound. When you bring Internet to India, you are empowering people to build tools that can really benefit the world,” he said.
Mr. Zuckerberg is also interested in bringing a while host of initiatives into India, including a scheme that will offer basic Internet services free of cost in collaboration with telecom operators and handset makers. This will allow people to browse selected health, employment and local information websites without data charges.
During his two-day visit, Mr. Zuckerberg will meet Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal and Micromax founder Rahul Sharma to push this agenda.
“India is an amazing country with unlimited potential. It is a place of big ambitions, and Facebook is deeply committed to the country,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
With 100 million users, India is now the second biggest market for Facebook after the U.S. But lack of Internet connectivity across the country is a major concern for the company’s future growth. Mr. Zuckerberg said that Facebook was experimenting with satellites and solar powered drones to make available cheaper Internet access to countries like India. “If you can do it successfully in India then you can do it anywhere else,” he said.
To meet Modi
Mr. Zuckerberg will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss how Facebook can help with the Digital India mission.
Facebook is also working with the government on using its platform to spread awareness about the Clean India drive. “Facebook is the biggest Internet service worldwide, and there are unique things where we can help out,” he said.