During a townhall Q&A at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters today, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had a very productive discussion dealing with topics from the 40,000 questions and comments submitted by the public. 

The main area of discussion included modernization of India, how social media has taken diplomacy to a whole new level and the empowerment of women in the country, along with a lot more. You can watch the video of the talk here.

The talk was quite interesting. It started off by Zuckerberg recalling his travels to India and how his confidence was restored in building Facebook as an independent company. Zuck says that the late Steve Jobs had advised him to visit a temple in the subcontinent where he discovered inspiration. This was where Zuck realized “how much better the world could be” if everyone was connected. So, the founder of the world’s largest social networking website decided not to sell his masterpiece.

This was then followed by some general discussion and Zuckerberg thanked Modi for his commitment to creating a digital India. The praise was returned by the Prime Minister by stating that Zuck was a role model for technologists around the globe.

The talk further progressed into how Modi envisions India to be in a few more years. We can clearly see how much the Prime Minister is committed towards creating a digital platform for India in everything possible. Not just Facebook, many other tech giants have also made time to meet the PM during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. India is, after all, the world’s largest democracy and can be the most productive target for many leading tech giants.

According to Modi, India is a $8 trillion economy today, but he dreams of it becoming a $20 trillion economy, in the near future. It isn’t an easy task but the PM believes that it can be achieved by improving standards and getting higher success rates in 3 sectors, namely; agriculture, service and manufacturing. The service sector is where Modi sees social media in. He believes that people learn better if they connect with human guides instead of just reading something out of a textbook.

Modi also said that social media “brought about a big change in my way of thinking”. According to the PM, social media allows the government to realize when they’re going in the wrong direction and helps them redeem what the people do not approve of. This is quite true as social media is sort of like the latest take on right to voice your opinion and you have full freedom to actually share your views on a given platform. Modi also said that progress could be sped up if the governments pay attention to the real-time information on social media platforms and improve their policy frameworks.

He then goes on to talk about a few other pressing matters which include gender equality in India, as well as the concept of Social Diplomacy, which the PM finds very interesting.

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Modi was questioned about empowering women and his smooth response was that India has many initiatives that support gender equality. To put more weight to his point, the Prime Minister stated that the progress would come soon as some of the country’s gods are female. He also added that the nation’s “fundamental values” position women in a very important place.

Modi admitted that “it’s true over thousands of years we’ve had a certain deterioration. But as far as the government is concerned, if we want to achieve our economic goals then we cannot do that if we imprision 50% of our population within their homes.”

He defended his point by quoting campaign’s like “Educate the girl child” and other reservations, especially meant for women.

The highlight of the whole discussion, though, was by far the view of the PM on how social media is changing relationships between whole governments.

Modi shared a story here on how he wished China’s Prime Minister a happy birthday via Chinese social network Sina Weibo and we all know how good a response that was met with. Another story he quoted was when he congratulated the the Israeli Prime Minister in Hebrew for a festival in the country, and the Israeli Prime Minister thanked him in Hindi. Another viral exchange, if you didn’t know already.

I don’t think anyone ever thought this is what diplomacy would look like 

Modi said.

Facebook is surely all in with Modi for the Digital India campaign but there still remain small problems like the fact that its Internet.org has recently received a lot of criticism by people who in all their views support Net Neutrality and the fact that Facebook has been actively supporting gay rights, but India recently declared same-sex marriage illegal.

But it’s now up to Namo and Zuck and if their relationship goes on to be smooth, we might just see a good deal of increase in India’s social economy. We might not just get everyone connected in the country, but also the average citizen’s quality of life will be improved by a lot.


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