Facebook targets local content for growth in India

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the social networking giant is looking at a deeper engagement in India through expanding internet penetration to villages and promoting creation of regional content.

Mark ZuckerbergThe CEO of the California-based firm is the third US technocrat to visit India in quick succession, after Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Amazon's Jeff Bezos, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit last month.

Zuckerberg, who began his two-day visit to India today, said he is excited to help the government in its ambitious Digital India programme. He said internet connectivity should be considered as one of the basic rights of the people.

"India is an amazing country with unlimited potential. It is a place of big ambitions and Facebook is deeply committed to the country. We see lot of growth for us here. Tomorrow I am meeting the Prime Minister. He is committed to connecting villages online and we are excited to see how Facebook can help," he said at the Internet.org Summit.

Zuckerberg called for breaking down the barriers of infrastructure, affordability and social barrier (including language barrier) in order make internet reach all.

Delivering a keynote address in the two-day Internet.org Summit, which aims to make internet access affordable for all, Zuckerberg said: ''When people are connected, accomplishments are easy... Connected people have better access to technology, education and jobs.''

The Internet.org project, whose founding members include Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, is focused on enabling the next five billion people without internet access to come online.

The partners are collaborating on developing lower-cost, higher-quality smart phones and deploying internet access in under-served communities.

''We want to build an internet that works for all and Internet.org is an effort to bring basic internet services to all,'' said Zuckerberg.

He also said that free basic internet access should be like dialing 911 in the United States or 100 here in India.

Zuckerberg said the next generation has the opportunity to bring the world to India and India to the world. The whole world being robbed of creativity and ideas because so many people in India are not online yet, he further added.

"Technology should serve the whole society and connectivity cannot be a privilege of only the rich and the powerful... When the benefits of technology are shared across the whole society, that's when we can make the big leap,'' he stated.

The Facebook co-founder said the social networking giant is working extensively in rural India to enhance connectivity and in this connection he is meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

"India is an amazing country with unlimited potential. It is a place of big ambitions and Facebook is deeply committed to the country. We see lot of growth for us here. Tomorrow I'm meeting the Prime Minister. He is committed to connecting villages with the digital world and we are excited to see how Facebook can help," Zuckerberg said.

He said that two thirds of the world does not have access to internet primarily because of one of these barriers. He said that lack of relevant local language content is the biggest barrier to 4.4 billion people globally who don't have internet access.    

India has about 243 million internet users and have 100 million plus Facebook users, but there are over a billion people in the country who do not have access to the net, he added.

He also announced that Facebook is creating a $1 million fund to help developers develop apps for farmers, migrants and women. This will be a contest to drive new apps and services in local languages.