Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi made meeting Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg the feature of his recent tour of Silicon Valley, wanting to send a message to Indians around the Globe that their nation was heading in the right direction, embracing the digital age in a manner thought impossible by previous Governments
Some Important Advice From Jobs
31 year old Zuckerberg had his parents in the audience as he began with an opening anecdote about his mentor and friend, the late Steve Jobs. He said that at a time when Facebook’s progress began to overwhelm, and he was inundated with requests to be bought out, Jobs had told him that “in order to reconnect with what [he] believed as the mission of this company”, he should pay a visit to a particular temple in India that had had a profound effect on the Apple founder in his earlier years.
Zuckerberg followed this advice and visited the temple (thought to be the Kainchi Dham Ashram in the Himalayan state of Uttarakand). What followed was a month long trip around Modi’s home nation that reminded Zuckerberg of “how much better the world could be if everyone had a stronger ability to connect,” something that reinforced in him the importance of the Facebook project.
This led Modi to speak at great lengths about the huge task of preparing India to become a real hub for businesses and innovation. He spoke of the need to focus on the development of both India’s physical infrastructure and it’s digital infrastructure. The two, he reminded us, must be tackled simultaneously in order for true progress to be made and for Indian business, and Indian people to prosper.
Zuckerberg and Modi: A Perfect Partnership
The partnership between Modi and Zuckerberg seems logical; the former seeking the guidance and expertise of the digital generation and the latter seeing India as a huge opportunity for the expansion of Facebook. With a population of over a billion in a country that is progressing ever faster towards a full-scale digital revolution (India’s technological capital Bangalore already being hailed as their own Silicon Valley), the importance of this partnership should not be understated. Better digital infrastructure in what is most likely to become the world’s biggest population in the next generation means that websites like Facebook have an opportunity to get in at a grassroots level, giving them in turn a chance to play a pivotal role in India’s technological development as time goes on.
Modi, like all politicians, came under scrutiny for his agenda of digital improvement in India, with critics saying that it was a mask for the State enhancing it’s surveillance capabilities to keep tabs on its citizens. But this sort of backlash is to be expected whenever a country undergoes such a drastic paradigm shift in terms of their infrastructure and, indeed, their culture.
The true goal for Modi is to seek the investment he needs to get a billion Indians connected to each other, and to the rest of the world, on the web – something that has boundless positive implications for the future of his home nation.