India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is courting the top technology companies in Silicon Valley. On Saturday, Mr. Modi visited Tesla and met Elon Musk. He also had dinner with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, both of whom were born in India. Other technology leaders from companies like Apple, Adobe, and Uber attended the dinner.
The prime minister is pushing his “Digital India” initiative. He wants to get tech deals in the United States, encouraging companies to invest in Indian startups and move their manufacturing facilities to India. India’s economy is booming and the number of people connecting to the Internet is growing at a faster rate.
Mr. Modi’s efforts are paying off. On Saturday, Microsoft pledged to bring low-cost Internet access to more than 500,000 Indian villages. Satya Nadella, however, didn’t say how he intends to accomplish the feat. Google, on the other hand, announced a bold plan to offer free Wi-Fi to around 500 railway stations in India, bringing more Indians online. India is the second most populous country in the world. Yet over one billion Indians don’t have access to Internet.
Qualcomm, the American chip manufacturer, announced that it would invest up to $150 million in startups across India. Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. is a stark contrast to Xi Jinping’s trip last week. The Chinese prime minister convened tech leaders in Seattle on Wednesday but didn’t invite Google and Twitter, whose services have been blocked in China. Now, India is seen as the new China, lush with talent and resources.
On Sunday, Narendra Modi met Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Mr. Modi thanked social networks like Facebook and Twitter for bringing its services to India. He also urged other world leaders to use social media to bridge the gap between governments and the people.
“When I came to government, I saw that one of the problems that governments have is that there is a big gap between the government and the people. But with social media we have daily bonding,” he said. “We used to have elections every five years, but now it is every five minutes. This is a huge strength of democracy.”
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India is synonymous to technology and innovation. The country trails behind the United States in using phones to conduct Google searches. India also has 132 million Facebook users—only second to the US—and has made WhatsApp the most popular app in the country. The majority of the executives in Silicon Valley are also of Indian descent.