Modi in US: Here are the key tech announcements that got our interest

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google to set up Wi-Fi in 400 Indian railway stations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the first Indian leaders to interact with the top CEOs and business leaders of Silicon Valley, during his second US stint.There is a hunger in India to have more information and being able to connect, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said as he promised to deliver high-speed internet at 500 railway stations in the country. Modi, who took a tour of the Google campus seeing the latest products and forward-looking researches, was given a presentation of Google Earth in which the ghats of his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi were shown. The Internet giant is working with the Indian Railways and RailTel, a government-owned provider of telecommunications infrastructure to the railways, to initially cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016.

He appreciated and encouraged Google to develop Apps which could benefit the common man as he participated in Hackathon under which its employees sat for 15 hours straight to devise such Apps for use in India. The PM’s visit has also come with some key announcements and along with discussions on future possibilities of certain new technologies coming to India. The service will be offered free initially, but the aim is to make the project eventually self-sustainable, so as to provide Wi-Fi to more stations and other places, he added. India’s railways has the capacity to carry 21 million people daily and it plans to create capacity for 30 million passengers in the next five years, with track length also going up by 20 percent to about 138,000 kilometers. The commercial terms of the deal between Google and Indian Railways, including whether the company will be allowed to serve advertisements to users at the railway stations, were not disclosed.

He also announced that Google will launch an Android next month enabling users to type in 11 Indian languages, including Modi’s mother tongue Gujarati. “Today, everybody spends maximum time on the internet…Even when a child asks him mother to give milk, she says ‘wait, first let me forward this WhatsApp’,” Modi said, evoking laughter all around. Pichai said that there was immense “hunger” for technology in India which was reflected when Google launched Chrome browser some time back and India was the first country to adopt it in major way. This will rank it as the largest public Wi-Fi project in India, and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users.” The project will start with Chennai. The country has launched an aggressive expansion of the national optical fibre network that will take broadband to 600,000 villages, he told the executives, according to India’s Press Information Bureau.

India does not censor the Internet systematically as does neighboring China, but it has in the past had conflicts with Internet companies and local users over access to data by law enforcement, and the removal of pornographic content and material considered religiously offensive. He goes on to note in the blog, ” It will also be fast—many times faster than what most people in India have access to today…” What he doesn’t mention is if Google will be bringing Google Fibre as part of its expansion project. Ahead of Modi’s visit to the U.S., the country’s ministry of information technology released draft rules for encryption that would have required users to store the plain texts of encrypted information for 90 days from the date of a transaction and provide the text to law enforcement agencies when required under the laws of the country. On Sunday, Modi also visited Facebook’s headquarters and had a Town Hall Q&A for which the company said it had received more than 40,000 questions from the Facebook community.

Facebook’s Internet.org app and mobile website, renamed Free Basics by Facebook last week, has been criticized for creating a “walled garden” of free Internet services including its own for low-income users. Qualcomm and investments for start-ups: Qualcomm, announced a $150 million (approximately Rs 9.8 billion) venture investment fund for start-ups in India via its Qualcomm Ventures. Qualcomm also launched a “Design in India Initiative and Competition” to help India become a hub for design capabilities that drive the manufacturing value chain for 3G/4G smartphones, tablets and Internet of Everything (IoE). Qualcomm will also set up an Innovation Lab in Bangalore to provide technical and engineering support to Indian companies, and support for multiple Indian mobile device design companies. “We are committed to providing local innovative start-ups with the support needed to help India’s IOE (Internet of Everything) ecosystem grow, increasing consumer choice and availability,” Qualcomm executive chairman Paul E Jacobs said in his remarks at the dinner hosted in honour of Modi.

PM Modi and the meeting with Tesla Motors: While there were no concrete announcements after PM Modi and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, as we reported, the meeting was primarily due to India’s interest in the company’s solar Powerwall technology. Musk said that he had a “great discussion” with Modi about solar and batteries empowering rural communities. “For India the main take away was the technology behind long term storage battery, which can have multiple applications,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs. “The Prime Minister was very keen to see how we could utilize the battery – the Powerwall concept – to leap frog development in India,” he added. He particularly was interested in the whole App development economy, which he said could be a very very important factor for entrepreneurship where individual app developers can just become part of the app universe,” he added.

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