On the second day of his US tour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sold his `Digital India' vision to technology giants Microsoft, Google and Qualcom, stating that it is an enterprise that would transform India.
During an interaction with the prime minister, Silicon Valley's tech giants have evinced interest in Narendra Modi's Digital India and Smart Cities projects and committed to participate in them.
While Google offered to enable Wi-Fi Internet to 500 railway stations, Microsoft said it wants to help the government take low-cost broadband to five lakh villages. Microsoft is also making India its hub for cloud services through data centres located in the country.
Chip-maker Qualcomm announced a $150-million fund for start-ups in India and Facebook has started a project to enable Wi-Fi hotspots in rural India.
The announcements came after Modi met top executives from these companies on Saturday.
Later in the day, while speaking at the Digital India event in San Jose, California, Modi credited the technology firms for ushering in social change.
"I want our 1.25 billion citizens to be digitally connected," Modi said, describing the steps taken by his government towards broadband connectivity.
"I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity," Modi said.
"After MyGov.In, we have just launched the Narendra Modi Mobile App. They are helping me stay in close touch with people," he said amidst applause from the audience.
"In this digital age, we have an opportunity to transform lives of people in ways that was hard to imagine just a couple of decades ago," the prime minister said, adding that the pace at which people are taking to digital technology defies stereotypes of age, education, language and income.
"We must ensure that technology is accessible, affordable and adds value," he said, adding that his government is giving highest priority to cyber security, intellectual property.
"I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity," he said.
''When a small craftsman in a village in India brings a smile to a customer looking at his phone on a metro ride in New York; when a heart patient in a remote hospital in the Kyrgyz Republic is treated by doctors sitting in Delhi, as I saw in Bishkek, we know we are creating something that has fundamentally changed our lives,'' Modi said to an audience comprising the who's who of the tech world. ''All this is because of the work you people are doing,'' he added.
Inviting the tech companies to participate in India's growth story, Modi said, ''From creating infrastructure to services, from manufacture of products to human resource development, from supporting governments to promoting digital literacy, Digital India is a vast cyber world of opportunities for you.''
"We would set up digital locker for every citizens to share documents across departments," he said.
Stating that a Digital India could not be built without bridging the digital divide, he listed out the measures taken by his government to bridge this digital divide.
"From large corporates to young professionals in this great center of innovation, each can be part of India story," he said.
"Building upon that vision, we conceive of Digital India, to fundamentally transform the way our nation will work," the prime minister said.
Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs were among those present at the event.
The tech chiefs reacted positively to Modi's visit. ''We share the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy,'' Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs said.
Microsoft's Nadella said, ''We believe low-cost broadband connectivity coupled with the scale of cloud computing and the intelligence that can be harnessed from data can help drive creativity, efficiency and productivity across governments and businesses of all size. This, is turn, will create global opportunities for India.''
Earlier in the day, Modi met Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla founder Elon Musk. During the 15-minute meeting with Cook, Modi explored ways to use Apple Pay for Jan Dhan Yojna.
During the meeting with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Modi discussed the possibility of bringing Tesla's revolutionary battery technology to India.
"The meeting focused on adapting and obtaining the company's ''Powerwall'' invention for India, as a long-term storage device for solar energy,'' said ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup.