29th July, 2014
Dear Prime Minister,
The last few days, there has been much buzz about your inclination towards social media over traditional media. Your whole campaign, in fact, has revealed an undeniable truth about the power of the web. As marketers, we spend a good portion of our days trying to crack the digital world of Facebook, Twitter, etc. And you did it. You won. And with your victory, you also marked the victory of connectivity. It makes me so proud to say that my Prime Minister is among the top most followed people on Twitter. You have done with unabashed confidence what every brand is striving to do today. You have decoded the power of the Internet.
Mr. Modi, let the backbone of your campaign also be the backbone of your reign as PM. Roti, kapda, makaan and women’s rights will always be important, but maybe there’s a more important tool that will help us get there. I’m talking about free WiFi.
As many a country has shown us, a connected nation is an empowered one. A phone with an Internet connection means the ability to know what’s going on, to ask questions, to keep leaders accountable and to live at par with the rest of the world. Thomas L. Friedman had said that technology is going to level the playing field for the world in this century. Let’s give every Indian equal opportunity to compete on this field. And that opportunity lies in free WiFi.
It’s no wonder then that Google is working to establish cloud-based WiFi hotspots for businesses. The Australian government just signed a 4 million dollar deal to create the largest public WiFi network in their key business districts. Back home, even NDMC has made efforts to give Delhi free WiFi access. The socioeconomic benefits of public WiFi are obvious. Studies have shown that large-scale Internet connectivity equals increased efficiency, security and freedom for citizens. As Tahrir Square and Jantar Mantar have indicated, in the world of Web 2.0, real power comes from connectivity, not from military muscle. Taking this initiative seriously might just be the push India needs to be the Superpower everyone claims it can be.
Imagine the potential of the small town boy who can find training for interviews online. Imagine a Panchayat leader learning about how the best councils run. Imagine the courage in a woman’s heart if she knows that she can report abuse with one click. WiFi can turn a cobbler’s teenage kid into the next big shoe designer, who sells his designs to Italy. WiFi can bring out the car designer in every ordinary mechanic. Yes, it’s a limitless utopian society that I’m envisioning right now, but it has to start somewhere. And it should start now.
As the world’s youngest nation, we’re sitting on boundless possibilities. Why must we only be known for cheap labor? Why can’t we export our innovations, our technological expertise? WiFi alone can set this market of 1.2 billion people on its path to realise its true potential. And by doing so, WiFi can turn the world map upside down. Let’s make India the first country in the world with free Wi-Fi.
Mr. Prime Minister, all I’m saying is something we already know: Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Founder and CCO,
(Published in the issue of Campaign India dated 8 August 2014)