Tuesday, 29 September 2015

PM Modi selling Digital India in Silicon Valley is one thing, walking the talk in real India is another

Unlike Rahul Gandhi who trots out the now well-worn suit-boot jibe at every occasion, Narendra Modi’s speeches are tailor-made for his audience. His triumphal tour of Silicon Valley was no exception as he charmed the titans of technology by speaking their lingo. There’s nothing that tech whiz kids like better than technological silver bullets for seemingly intractable social problems, attacking poverty, as the Indian prime minister said, by the power of networks and mobile phones. If an American president once promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, Narendra Modi served up a digital version of that promise – JAM for all, Jan Dhan bank account, Aadhaar cards and Mobile governance.
Free wi-fi at 500 railway stations. 600,000 villages linked by optical fibre network. What was not to love, or at least Facebook-like, about this vision of the future even though it does not mean women’s rights are ensured or that healthcare is truly accessible. And Modi, a master of social media, was clearly in his element laying out a no-call-drop picture of the other India –where Maharashtra farmers have WhatsApp groups and the existential choice is about iOs or Android. No wonder Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said “I changed my profile picture to support Digital India, the Indian government’s effort to connect rural communities to the Internet and give people access to more services online.”

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