Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday, said that his company will contribute toward the government’s Digital India Initiative. The Facebook chief also said that the social networking giant could deploy drones in India to provide broadband connectivity to the country’s remote and inaccessible villages.
Zuckerberg, who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday, also met Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s communications and information technology minister, and said that the Digital India program will help spread “the innovation of Indian people.” However, neither Facebook nor the Prime Minister's Office disclosed further details of the meeting.
“One of the things I am really excited about is that the PM has this whole Digital India initiative. We can't create connectivity around the world just by ourselves, we are trying to work with operators, governments,” Deccan Chronicle, a local newspaper, quoted Zuckerberg as saying. “I am mostly interested in hearing and learning about how we can help. I believe there are certain things that Facebook can uniquely bring.”
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 10, 2014
Zuckerberg, 30, emphasized on the importance of connectivity and said that more than a billion people in India still do not have access to the Internet. According to him, the company’s Internet.org program, an initiative to make the worldwide web available to the world’s unconnected regions, could be instrumental in bridging India’s digital divide.
“Internet.org is an effort to bring basic Internet services to all,” Zuckerberg said. “If we can connect people over here, we can help bring this rich Indian culture to the world.”
During his meeting with Zuckerberg, Prasad reportedly sought Facebook’s partnership in the National Optical Fibre Network, or NOFN, program, which is designed to connect 250,000 village panchayats, basic units of administrations in villages, through high-speed broadband by 2017.
Zuckerberg, who “readily agreed” to the project, said that drones and satellite communications could play a critical part in the program, the Economic Times, or ET, a local business newspaper, reported.
In addition, Zuckerberg also said that Facebook will help in the creation of mobile app devoted to the government’s Clean India mission.
“[Zuckerberg] is keen to play a significant role in India in field of broadband retail, e-education, e-health and other such programs. What is important is that Facebook has a significant presence in India and has enormous scope,” Asian News International, a local news agency, quoted Prasad as saying.