Transcript of ​Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in San Jose on Prime Minister’s visit​ to USA (September 27, 2015)

September 29, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): As you all know, the day began with Prime Minister’s visit to Facebook headquarters where he was received by Mark Zuckerberg and also Sheryl Sandberg. This was Prime Minister’s second meeting with Mark Zuckerberg. As you know, Mark had travelled to India last year and had met the Prime Minister. So, this was the second meeting and this was really about youth and social media.

Facebook, as you know, has now a billion plus users and India is one of their fastest growing areas. So, for Mark Zuckerberg it was an important opportunity to show Prime Minister the headquarters, what Facebook is doing and what it is capable of doing.

You all were present for the Town Hall event where Prime Minister answered a number of questions. In the inside meeting that they had, basically Prime Minister just requested Mark to see how we could use social media for giving greater coverage to the Government’s social programmes such as Swachh Bharat etc. So, that was largely the sense of the meeting there. Then, of course the Town Hall happened where the Prime Minister answered various questions on the role of social media in diplomacy for instance. He also answered some personal questions pertaining to his early life, the role of his mother etc.

After that, the next meeting was with Google. From Facebook he travelled straight to Google headquarters. There the Prime Minister was Eric Schmidt, by Sundar Pichai. What came as a surprise to us by Larry Page himself. As you know, Larry Page and Sergy Brinn were the two founders of Google. So, Larry Page was personally present. They showed the Prime Minister three or four of their top technologies for which Google is now known all over the world. In Google Earth, they showed us the technical backbone of the Google Earth, what is the kind of equipment that people carry in order to be able to map the earth.

The Prime Minister in fact tested out as you know ‘trust but verify’. So he said, show me Khagol, which is a place in Bihar where Aryabhatta apparently started out the astronomy, and that was the base of the astronomer, and Google Earth was able to pinpoint that. That was interesting.

They also showed the other project, the Iris project, which is important for measuring glucose level, and Google Translate which again has I think extremely significant ramifications. In fact, interpreters might get out of business after some time because it really is now going to be interpreting in real time and they are developing algorithms which mirror human speech so that present glitches that you have in translations might be a thing of the past sometime in future.

Eric Shmidt said that he was very excited about Prime Minister’s Digital India Initiative. In fact he said that when a billion people have access to the internet, their lives transform. From that point of view, he felt that Prime Minister’s initiative to bring Digital India to every corner of the country was a very very significant initiative.

They also explained some of the new innovations that Google is doing. They have now brought out these Knowledge Panels. It will be an app-based thing, you can just pull out any information that you need, and specifically health information. Again the feeling was that that could be very significant. It would be available in all the local Indian languages and it is mainly meant for the mobile platform. For example, of the Knowledge Panel, I think it was not Sundar Pichai it was Amit Singhal who just said on his mobile phone, ‘Ahmedabad ki jansankhya kya hai?’ He just said it in Hindi and Google replied, "3.2 million.” So, that was in a way a practical demonstration of the possibilities inherent in these kinds of Knowledge Panels.

Then there was a very detailed exposition of Project Loon - Loon as in balloon - which again is Google’s flagship project to bring internet access to hitherto unserviced areas, in fact areas which have nothing, no internet signal at all. They said that this could be scaled up; a few thousand balloons would need to be deployed to cover the entire area of India. But we do not need it for the whole of India; we need it basically for areas where you still do not have internet connectivity. They said that in terms of the cost of putting fibre optic cable etc., this is still much much cheaper than that.

The Prime Minister evinced very keen interest in that. They said that they were doing a pilot project in Andhra Pradesh and the idea is to target rural areas which still do not have internet penetration. So, Prime Minister felt that this could be a very very significant innovation to help us with rural connectivity. The Google people said that their research tells them that 160 million people can be lifted out of poverty if given internet access. So, the Prime Minister immediately felt applications of Project Loon in areas such as long distance education, rural schools and telemedicine etc. And they said that the technology exists to scale up. As of now, it simply a means to deliver internet to places where it no internet exists, but depending on what the requirements are, this could be scaled up.

There was also discussion on the project that Google is now doing in partnership with the RailTel to provide wi-fi connectivity at 500 railway stations. They are starting this with Mumbai Central which they said I think should be available very soon, and then it will roll out to next 100 stations. They said that this is the biggest wi-fi project on earth. That is the word Google used for this wi-fi project that they are doing in partnership with RailTel.

The Prime Minister talked about his favour concept called ‘JAM’ where the J stands for the Jan Dhan Yojana, the A stands for the Aadhaar platform and the M stands for mobile governance. He says the Jan Dhan Yojana is more or less done, 180 million people who were outside the banking sector have now been covered by bank accounts. The Aadhaar project is about 90 per cent done. But mobile governance is where he wanted to move on next and that is where he sought inputs from Google, how that could be made possible.

Specifically there was a discussion on the possibilities of Google technologies for the agricultural sector in terms of if they could develop algorithm etc., to predict rainfall or to say what is going to happen next in terms of crop patterns etc., which could really be of transformative use in agriculture. So, that was the meeting with Google.

After that, Prime Minister came back to the hotel and had a meeting with Dr. Ernest Muniz, the US Secretary of Energy. As you know, very recently we had the India-US Energy Dialogue for which Minister Piyush Goel had travelled to Washington DC. The idea was really how India and the US can collaborate further in the area of renewable energy and the discussions which were held as part of the India-US Energy Dialogue, how we could take this forward.

Immediately after that was the round table on renewable energy. This we think is a very significant event. It was attended, as you know, apart from Dr. Ernest Muniz, Prof. Steven Chu, former US Secretary of Energy who is also a Nobel Laureate from Stanford University. Top energy CEOs and investors were present including Ahmed Chatila, CEO of SunEdison; Nikesh Arora, President and CEO of SoftBank; K.R. Sreedhar, CEO of Bloom Energy; Jonathan Wolfson, CEO, Solazime; John Doerr, Venture Capitalist; and Ira Ehrenpreis of DBL Partners. Prof. Arun Mazumdar, Prof. Roger Noll, Dr. Anjini Kocher, and Prof. Sally Benson, all from Stanford University also participated.

Among the views expressed at the round table was the clear assertion that India has the makings of becoming the clean energy world capital. The participants said that clean and renewable energy will soon be an inexpensive energy option with electricity storage becoming cheaper. Participants were of the view that States and cities in India should be allowed to take the lead in clean energy initiatives. A related thought was that the current grid is not designed for carrying the 175 gigawatts of renewable energy that India is targeting, and therefore a complementary effort is required on the grid side. Private investment was emphasized as being vital for realizing the vision of 175 gigawatts with a parallel example being given of how Israel had solved its water shortage using private investment.

Experts were of the view that India has to address issues in four key areas - technology integration, finance, regulatory frameworks and the right talent pool. They also expressed concern at the financial status of power distribution companies, that is Discoms, in India. The CEOs present gave a brief overview of the technologies and innovations being used in their companies. In addition to solar and wind energy, biomass was also suggested as a key provider of clean energy.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister thanked the participants and emphasized India’s commitment to realize the vision for 175 gigawatts of clean energy. He said there is massive scope of investment in the sector, for example through the railways where now, as you know, 100 per cent FDI has been allowed. He said the Government is working to address issues in regulation and addressed the financial health of Discoms.

The Prime Minister also gave an overview of initiatives already undertaken in the area of renewable energy such as Kochi airport becoming a solar powered airport; solar panels being installed over a canal in Gujarat. This is the canal-top solar project, 10 megawatts of which was inaugurated by Ban Ki-moon this year when he had come for the Vibrant Gujarat Initiative. He said that early next month, a district court in the tribal belt of Jharkhand will become entirely solar powered.

The PM also mentioned coal gasification as an important area of research. He expressed confidence of a renewable energy revolution over the next decade.

Immediately after that was the India-US Startup Connect. This again is a very very important event. You have just heard the Prime Minister’s speech, how he mentioned why he chose Silicon Valley to launch this initiative because Silicon Valley has a particular ecosystem. It is an ecosystem which promotes development of startups, which provides them handholding facilities right through. And as the founder of Linkedin who was there said that the real thing about Silicon Valley is not startups but scale-ups. So, Silicon Valley has the full ecosystem where a startup can become a scale-up.

The Prime Minister was very keen to replicate that ecosystem in India and for Indian startups to benefit from the ecosystem in Silicon Valley. That is why 40 of these startups from India participated in the exhibition, seven MoUs were signed, and our expectation is that this will now in a true sense kick start the startup revolution in India and help us benefit from the ecosystem in Silicon Valley and see how we could replicate that.

I will stop here. After this, as you know, there are two meetings with Mr. Edmund G. Brown and Salman Khan. But let me give you an update on the programme in New York. Now there is also a meeting with David Cameron. So, he will be meeting the Prime Minister of Britain, he will be meeting the President of France, and he will be meeting the President of the USA.

Question: Give us the timing for the bilateral meeting.

Official Spokesperson: In New York? We will give that to you later.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: Can I get a list of all the bilaterals he has …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: Come on, if you have not been following this, then …(Inaudible)…

Question: I have been following.

Official Spokesperson: We have been giving you updates on each and every event that has happened. Just look at my twitter feed.

I am told you all have to leave. So, no questions. Thank you all.



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