Sukumar Muralidharan, thehindubusinessline.com
Check republic: Internet messaging on mobile phones was shut down in parts of Gujarat after a spate of violence triggered by the agitation led by Hardik Patel.
Silicon Valley is an ecosystem in part nourished by technical talent with an Indian stamp of origin. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Silicon Valley and his planned meetings with a number of persons of Indian origin who have breached glass ceilings and achieved positions of corporate authority is a subtle effort to take ownership of that intangible patrimony. And then there is the more tangible purpose of recruiting talent to the cause of the digital revolution that is an integral part of the government’s developmental plans.
Not everybody, however, seems to share the celebratory spirit. In a letter addressed to prominent Silicon Valley executives, a number of academics of Indian origin urged a degree of scepticism about the plans for a “digital India”. A specific concern flagged was the possible use of new digital technologies for purposes of citizen surveillance. There was also a worry that economic disparities would be aggravated, that digital India would only deepen existing divides. ...
Instrumental use of the internet and the new media is not an idea original to India. The clearest statement of intent here comes from two top officials of Google — executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen — in their 2013 work titled ‘The New Digital Age’. Google Ideas very tellingly identifies itself as a “Think/Do Tank” and Cohen is a perfect fit for the generic term “in and outer”, constantly in transit through the revolving doors between the corporate world, policy think-tanks and government. He was famed for having served the US State Department under two bosses — Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton — and for his facility to invent smart-sounding catchphrases such as ‘Public Diplomacy 2.0’.
In 2010, Schmidt and Cohen co-authored a paper which was a celebration of the new frontiers of human freedom that the internet made possible. From the “reading coalition” that Benedict Anderson, in his classic work Imagined Communities, described as a key player in the early days of the nation, here was a prophecy of how “coalitions of the connected” would cement a true global solidarity of enlightenment and freedom.