SANJAY VIJAYAKUMARSRIRAM SRINIVASAN
February 15, 2015
Silicon Valley has many of the world’s most innovative and influential Internet companies. India has millions of people untouched by the Internet but nonetheless potentially accessible. Put the two together, and it is inevitable that Internet giants can’t help but think about India’s untapped population.
That’s precisely what was on show last week – Facebook launching its solution to spread Net access in the land of a billion-plus people and Google joining the race with an outline of its own plan.
The Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook got together with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications to launch in India internet.org, a service that offers subscribers free access to a pre-selected bouquet of Websites. Google’s plan, as outlined during the Nasscom India Leadership Forum toward the fag end of the week, is to use helium balloons to connect people to the Net.
Last year, their rival Microsoft announced a ‘white spaces’ project — a plan to use unused TV spectrum to provide connectivity.
That’s quite a high-profile list of companies trying to get Indians connected to the Internet. And it should gladden those who bemoan India’s relatively poor Internet record. The country’s Internet penetration is less than 20 per cent, whereas the likes of China, Russia and Brazil have got close to half their populations connected to the Net. The comparative percentage for developed countries such as the US, the UK and Japan is over 80 per cent.Why India?