Widely recognised as one of “the fathers of the Internet”, Vinton Gray Cerf who is also the vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google Inc., held discussions with the officials of the ministry of communications and IT over the government’s ambitious Digital India project.
“My impression after two days of discussions is that they have a fairly well chalked out plan to execute. The energy is really there, the passion is really there… they convinced me that they are absolutely passionate about making this happen,” he said speaking on the sidelines of a FICCI conference. Cerf had a meeting with the union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and secretary Ram Sewak Sharma.
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During his interactions, Cerf reiterated Google’s offer to the Indian government to lend its expertise and technology in connecting the entire country to the Internet. “This is a very early stage of discussion. Basically, we said that Google is interested in being helpful, we have some ideas. We want to share some of those ideas and figure out which ones of them make sense. It is very clear that the private sector will play a very major role in making this happen,” Cerf added.
The discussions are said to have revolved around increasing Internet penetration in the country, helping small and medium businesses harness its potential and bringing more women online.
Several companies have come forward with their respective proposals to aid the government in realising its agenda of taking broadband connectivity to the farthest parts of the country and delivering most private and state services electronically.
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Google could possibly pitch in with its Project Loon initiative which promises inexpensive Internet through a network of helium-filled balloons, which are solar powered. The pilot, which is still not reached India, is being run in New Zealand, California and Brazil. Cerf said that Loon required a lot of improvement in terms of its battery life etc and was still an “experiment”.
Google’s rival and the world’s largest technology company Microsoft has also pitched to partner the Indian government to connect areas beyond the 250,000 panchayats with broadband by offering its White Space technology, which deploys unused spectrum between two television channels. It has been launched in many parts of the world, including Kenya and the US. The company has sought permission from the ministry to start a pilot project in Bengaluru in association with the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, on its campus.
Earlier, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had also met the top ministers of the country and offered support to the Digital India project.
Multinational technology companies such as Google and Facebook see India as a huge market for their products. Large scale Internet connectivity will make access for their products easier and cheaper, ensuring significant monetary gain for these companies. This explains their interest in the government’s Digital India project.