SAN JOSE (CALIFORNIA): Welcome to Brave New Digital India, right in the heart of Silicon Valley – home to nearly half a million Indians and the crucible of innovation, creativity and enterprise. On a balmy laid back evening in San Jose plunging into Saturday night frenzy, there was a joyous celebration of the transformative power of technology and the power of ideas as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurled his radiant vision of Digital India in a wired world where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are our “new neighbourhoods.”
“The status that now matters is not whether you are awake or asleep, but whether you are online or offline. The most fundamental debate for our youth is the choice between Android, iOS or Windows,” said Mr Modi, triggering applause from the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. Closeted with tech titans and pioneers, which included India-born Microsoft boss Satya Nadella and Google’s Sundar Pichai, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs, and Cisco’s John Chambers, the Indian leader expounded eloquently on his vision of a digitally empowered India, which is adding millions to its burgeoning online population every passing day.
From a man who rose from being a tea-seller to the leader of the world’s largest democracy, Mr Modi knows how to sell dreams with conviction and has scripted a new anthem of digital redemption, with its own vocabulary and semantics.
“It is an enterprise for India’s transformation on a scale that is, perhaps, unmatched in human history. Not just to touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India, but change the way our nation will live and work,” he said in the tone of a diehard digital evangelist. PM Modi’s vision of Digital India is all-embracing and encompasses “computing to communication, entertainment to education, from printing documents to printing products.” “From cleaner energy to better healthcare and safer transport, everything is converging around the work you do,” he said.
“Digital Dinner,” as it was christened, turned to be a veritable feast of ideas, opening new vistas for forging an enduring partnership between Silicon Valley and the Digital India mission. Unveiling Microsoft’s plans to partner with individual states and tech companies in India, Mr Nadella said: “Now it is time for us to collectively empower people from all over the world.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai evocatively called India the world’s fastest growing “startup nation” and pithed technology as a catalyst of revolutionary change. “PM Modi understands that technology is an enabler for massive change, the kind that India needs right now,” Mr Pichai said. Cisco CEO John Chambers struck an upbeat note on partnering in this ongoing digital renaissance. “We believe you will change the world and change India,” said Mr Chambers.
Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs unveiled plan to set up $150 million fund to promote start-ups in India.
Mr Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit the US West Coast in more than three decades. The Indian leader’s first day in California included back-to-back meetings with leaders of the Indian diaspora and top tech visionaries that included Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla chief Elon Musk.
“We have a unique tie with India. Our founder Steve Jobs went to India for inspiration,” Mr Cook told PM Modi during their meeting. At the Tesla Motors plant, Mr Musk took the Indian leader around in a battery-operated cart as the two shared ideas on the revolutionary power of battery pack.
The major thrust of PM Modi’s second visit to the US is to seek the US assistance for promoting digital economy and innovation. Unlike his last visit to the USA in September 2014 where the focus was on getting US technology for bolstering manufacturing capacity in India, this time round Mr Modi is looking to dovetail Digital India with Make in India, and blend it with what he has called “Design in India.”
PM Modi’s faith in the transformative power of digital ingenuity and social media will be exemplified in his Townhall-style meeting at the Facebook headquarters at Menlo Park, near San Jose, and a visit to the Google campus on September 27. The showpiece event of Mr Modi’s trip to California will be his Madison Square Garden-style address to around 20,000 Indian-origin Americans and Indian professionals living in Silicon Valley at SAP Centre in San Jose, before he flies back to New York for his third meeting with US President Barack Obama.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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