Is Digital India a campaign for Facebook’s internet.org?

The word ‘Digital India’ reverberated in everyone’s ears as   Narendra Modi gave the much awaited townhall address at Facebook’s headquarters on Hacker Street. The stage was shared by the leader of world’s largest democracy and Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, a company that has revolutionized not only social media, but the entire internet arena.

Digital India, Narendra Modi’s flagship initiative appealed to CEOs of companies such as Google and Microsoft, who later pledged their support to Narendra Modi and help him turn his visionary idea into a reality. Though Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella were appreciated in India, Facebook’s support faced negative publicity as it was cited that the social media company’s support for Digital India is actually for propagating Internet.org, a project which is undermines net neutrality.

Digital India seeks to take internet connectivity to remotest areas and usher an era of e-governance. While the government will majorly rely on Indian tech companies for success of this project, a few big names such as Facebook will be ‘lending’ their support too.  However, in the name of providing equal and affordable accessibility to internet to the poor, Facebook will actually be providing ‘selective’ accessibility to them. While it’s being said that doors of internet will finally be opened up to the disenfranchised, the truth is that they will still remain half shut. Facebook will decide what the poor must be allowed to browsed in return of free internet. And how does this help them? Firstly, they earn in lump sums by collaborating with a cellular network who in return witness their market booming as they lure people with free internet. Secondly, companies will pay Facebook so that their websites can be browsed by people. Internet.org, hailed as a noble cause is actually a plan which wishes to make money off the naivety of underprivileged.

Accessibility to Internet is the basic principle behind Digital India.  Those who were born in this country are entitled to it just as they are entitled to electricity, road connectivity or water supply. However, it’s essential that they receive it in rawest of forms, without any modification.

While Facebook is using Digital India to penetrate deep into rural India, it would be absurd to call Digital India as a campaign for Facebook’s Internet.org.

Mansa Saxena

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