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PM Modi-Mark Zuckerberg Meeting Raises More Questions; Is Internet.org piggybacking on ‘Digital India’?

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The historic meeting between PM Modi and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg concluded yesterday, where our PM shared that he wants to make Indian economy worth $20 trillion, from $8 trillion right now.

During the 45 minutes live Q&A session, PM answered several questions from the audience, and provided a glimpse of what India is actually capable of.

He skillfully described how social media has brought major changes in the country, what all Indian Govt. is doing to implement the Digital India vision, an overview of gender empowerment and the policies of de-regularization.

The victories of Make in India campaign was discussed, and explanations provided for the shortcomings.

At one point, PM Modi became emotional while talking about his mother, and how poverty governed their lives’ decisions early on.

Overall, besides couple of direct questions related with the growth plans of Internet and Digital economy, most of the questions were generic in nature, which clarified India’s social standing.

Considering the opposition which Facebook’s Internet.org (now renamed to Free Basics by Facebook) is facing right now in India, tech observers expected more fireworks. Questions such as Facebook’s intentions of starting Internet.org, how Indian Govt. will ensure that Net Neutrality is protected in the country and how Technology will create more jobs were not brought up by the audience.

Is Internet.org Merging With Digital India Vision?

Before the meeting, both Mark Zuckerberg and PM Modi shared their thoughts via Facebook posts, and the wording depicts that something is brewing up.

Mark ZuckerBerg-Narendra Modi

Mark said in this Facebook post: “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. Looking forward to discussing this with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Facebook today.

Show your support for Digital India at: fb.com/supportdigitalindia.”

At exactly the same time, PM Modi also shared his thoughts on Facebook: “Thanks Mark Zuckerberg for the support. I changed my DP in support of the efforts towards a Digital India.

You too can change your DP at fb.com/supportdigitalindia”

As we can see from Mark’s post, he has smartly integrated ‘Digital India’ with the notion of ‘Internet for Rural Population’, and changed his display picture (DP) into a tri-color theme.

As we can observe, he even convinced PM Modi to do the same, and encouraged all Facebook users to change their DPs. And this created quite a ripple effect, as thousands of users changed their DPs as per this tri-colored theme.

From a branding perspective, it is not hard to see how Facebook is attempting to merge Internet.org’s scheme with Digital India vision. Following a subtle branding strategy (which is not direct), Facebook is attempting to justify their Internet.org initiatives, and the best way is to create a positive public opinion.

In the last few months, Facebook has even started TV and Cinema advertisements, proclaiming how their free Internet will benefit the rural society.

The almost seamless way by which Mark Zuckerberg convinced thousands of Indian Facebook users to change their DP in support of ‘Digital India’, ‘Internet for Rural Population’ and ‘More Free Services’ is quite fascinating, to say the least.

In fact, during the questioning session, Vir Kashyap, the co-founder of Baba Jobs, a portal which is included in the Internet.org’s platform was given a chance to ask a question, which further raises the doubt on their intentions.

Our Opinion

India is world’s greatest democracy; and by the time 2015 ends, Indian internet users will overtake entire US population. To spread Internet, we definitely don’t need shrewd, commercial schemes such as Internet.org or Free Basics (or whatever you choose to call it)

Government of India should actually help us to thwart such attempts to regulate and control Internet, rather than seeking their assistance. We can smell propaganda based PR attempts here, and we oppose the merging of Digital India with Internet.org.

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  1. Shonali says

    Good to see well- meaning individuals voicing their thoughts for net neutrality…The poor of Asia and Africa have long been used as a bait for the advancement of awful political and corporate motives…A double-meaning, reprehensible scheme is sold to a country like India, which has a sizeable population of the impoverished, cleverly disguised as a freebie meant to help the poor…Anything served for free is meant to face least resistance…But the clandestine objective being market expansion and monopolistic control…India does’nt need free ka maal.,it would serve better to provide real enablement and infrastructure to the poor so they can have as much access to oppurtunities as the empowered citizens do…take note free basics/internet.org!

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