Widely recognised as one of the “fathers of the Internet”, Vinton Gray Cerf, also the vice-president and chief internet evangelist for Google, held discussions with officials of the ministry of communications and information technology over the government’s ambitious Digital India project. “My impression after two days of discussions is that they have a fairly well-chalked plan. The energy is really there, the passion is really there… they convinced me that they are absolutely passionate about making this happen,” he said on the sidelines of a FICCI conference. Cerf had a meeting with Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and secretary Ram Sewak Sharma.
The pilot project, which has still not reached India, is being run in New Zealand, California and Brazil. Cerf said Loon would require a lot of improvement in terms of its battery life and that it was still an “experiment”. Microsoft, Google’s rival and the world’s largest technology company, has also evinced interest 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, Bengaluru, on its campus. Earlier, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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.