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Vinod Khosla condemns Indian govt’s decision to ban Uber

Silicon Valley-based billionaire and prominent venture capitalist Vinod Khosla on Friday condemned Indian government’s decision to ban internet-based taxi aggregator Uber following the alleged rape incident in Delhi recently. He said the situation should rather be used as an opportunity to fix the problem of safety, and the government could perhaps use its unique identification programme, Aadhaar, to enhance and strengthening security measures in the country.

“The right reaction to an incident like Uber is not to say let’s ban; banning it is exactly the wrong reaction. Almost every new thing will have some good consequences and some negative ones. And if you are good, over time you negate the negative ones,” Khosla said during an event jointly organised by information technology (IT) industry body Nasscom and Khosla Labs. “The one thing to realise is that every time technology makes a big difference with something, there are people who don’t like it. There’s a natural tendency to oppose anything new in most people.”

Khosla, an American businessman of Indian origins was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems – the company which created the Java programming language.

Following the alleged rape of a 27-year-old executive in Delhi over the last weekend by a driver of an Uber taxi, the company’s service was banned not only in Delhi but most of its important centres like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. A First Information Report has been filed against the company and the police are debating whether or not there is a case for criminal liability against it. The accused driver was found to have a criminal record, and Uber has been criticised for not conducting proper background check on its drivers.

As reports about the Delhi case emerged, it was also revealed that one US-based Nidhi Shah had travelled with the said driver in November and raised a red flag on him to the company. But Uber sat on the complaint.

Almost a week after the case, on Thursday the US-headquartered taxi aggregator “acknowledged” it must do better to ensure safety of its passengers, and said “We are implementing measures to ensure critical rider feedback is escalated immediately and immediate action is taken in every instance. We are also re-reviewing rider feedback on every driver partner across India, to make sure nothing has been missed.”

Addressing a crowd of entrepreneurs and startup teams, Khosla said, the ban on Uber seemed to him a “shortsighted” and “knee-jerk” response.

“As soon as I heard of the incident, my first reaction was that this is such a big opportunity to use Aadhaar-based technologies, which are unique to India. The Aadhar technologies can be combined with things like police verification and could be used to not only solve the problem of security through Uber and taxi cabs, but even in general,” Khosla said. “We should use this opportunity to make not only Uber better, but essentially all transport companies and even other services better.”

“Most people view problems as just problems, but entrepreneurs view problems as opportunities. To me, if there isn’t a problem, there isn’t a possibility,” he told the audience of young entrepreneurs.

Khosla added that Aadhaar could even play a role in having security checks and identity cards for electricians, plumber, domestic helps, and other such workers.

With the Narendra Modi-led NDA government showing support for the continuing of Aadhaar project, several stakeholders in the Indian software product ecosystem have come forward to encourage developers to building Aadhaar-enabled applications.

Among others, information technology (IT) industry body Nasscom, and startup incubators Khosla Labs and AngelPrime have decided to hold hack-a-thons where engineers would be required to write codes using Aadhaar’s open-source application programming interface (API).

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