A Glitch in the Plan

*Image sourced from Flickr. Creative Commons.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s Digital India program is certainly ambitious (http://www.digitalindia.gov.in/content/programme-pillars). The project aims to make India a noticeable presence on the Internet and to let all members of the country’s population connect to online services, regardless of whether they have a computer and live in a major city or have a mobile phone and live in a rural village. Considering India ranked 131 out of 189 countries in the UN’s ‘State of Broadband’ report in 2014, which means it has one of the lowest number of fixed-broadband subscriptions in the world, Modi’s program is both completely necessary and somewhat impossible to carry out (Khedekar). If the plan is work, India’s government will need the public’s support.

In September, Facebook offered its users a tool to decorate their profile picture with a layer of orange, white and green stripes—the colours of the Indian flag—to show their support for Digital India. Once Modi and Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg applied the tricolour to their photos, all of the supporters did as well (“Facebook says supporting Digital India”). However, shortly after the tool had been launched, someone leaked a screenshot of the tricolour’s source code. All of the pictures were tagged “internetOrgProfilePicture”, and India went mad (“Digital India profile”).

Facebook quickly released a statement that placed the blame on an engineer, who had supposedly typed the code in by mistake, and insisted, “There is absolutely no connection between updating your profile picture for Digital India a registering support for Internet.org.” (qtd. in “Facebook says supporting Digital India”).

Understandably, several Indians are still upset about the code, despite the explanation (http://www.catchnews.com/tech-news/facebook-s-india-tricolour-why-i-still-think-internet-org-is-the-inevitable-future-1443601936.html). That being said, the country’s newfound distrust of Facebook as a company could end up stopping Digital India from growing. It’s true that Internet.org has ulterior motives, but Facebook is a large Internet-based company. If Modi is going to give India the unrestricted Internet that Zuckerberg refused to give them, then they will have to deal with American companies just as much as Indian ones.

Dr. Pravakar Sahoo from the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, wrote in the Asia Pacific Bulletin that since the U.S. is currently the world’s biggest economy and India is the biggest democracy, it’s time “for both sides to [. . .] move the US-India relationship closer to fuller fruition.” If these two countries can work as equals through the online world, imagine the growth and opportunities that would arise for India.

Digital India may take a couple years before it can live up to Modi’s promises, but Indians should still support it, even if they don’t change their Facebook profile.

Works Cited

“Digital India profile tool not linked to support for Internet.org: Facebook.” The Indian Express. The Indian Express Ltd., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

“Facebook clarifies: Changing profile picture does not mean support for Internet.org.” The Times of India. Bennet, Coleman & Co. Ltd., 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

“Facebook says supporting Digital India is not backing Internet.org.” *The Hindu*. The Hindu, 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Kamino Aki. “what’s wrong with my mbp?.” Photograph. Flickr. Yahoo, 6 May 2008. Web.17 Nov. 2015.

Khedekar, Naina. “Here’s why PM Modi’s Digital India is a long way to go.” *Tech 2*. Tech2.com, 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Sahoo, Pravakar. “Prospects for US-India Economic Relations under Prime Minister Modi.” Asia Pacific Bulletin. 274 (2014): n. pag. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.