Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in India, looks to work with PM Modi on connecting villages

NEW DELHI (TIP): Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, was in India recently. Star-struck audience assembled to hear the 30-year-old billionaire on his first ever business trip to India.

Mark appeared a little awkward to begin but soon after a few slides into the presentation on his pet theme –
Internet.org, an ambitious project aimed to bring internet access to the unconnected billions – the awkwardness ebbed.

Over some 20 minutes or so Zuckerberg, a self-professed atheist, held forth with near religious zeal on his desire to bring the next five billion people on to the Internet. “Connectivity cannot be the privilege of the rich,” he told the 500 or so people assembled in Delhi’s Taj Palace hotel, many of them Facebook’s top customers in India, a bunch of internet entrepreneurs and assorted media.

It also helps that this vision aligns with his business, whose future growth in large parts depends on getting more and more people embrace the Internet. India is a crucial piece in achieving his internet for all mission, launched last August and is a joint initiative of Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

And Zuckerberg (or Zuck as he is called by friends), unsurprisingly perhaps, was lavish in his praise about the country which he has visited only once before in 2010 to attend a friend’s (Dropbox founder Aditya Agrawal) wedding and when he was photographed in a sherwani dancing barefeet. “Culturally this is the country that is very forward leading in science, engineering and research that make the benefits of connectivity here very profound for all,” said Zuckerberg, who is worth around $34 billion and the third richest American in the technology industry.

In India, he said, the impact will be even more profound “because you have some of the best engineers in the world and a vibrant technology industry”. On Friday, he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an avid user of Facebook who exploited its networking and communicative abilities to the hilt during his successful election campaign and has also sought to make it an integral part of his administration. Modi’s verified Facebook page currently has nearly 2.3 crore “likes” or followers, and almost all major government departments and ministries have Facebook pages.

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