Ravi Agrawal: "India Connected: How the Smartphone Revolution is [...]" | Talks at Google
It. Is my pleasure to have here with us today Ravi Agarwal to discuss his new book, India. Connected, how the smartphone, revolution is transforming. The world's largest, democracy. Mr., Agarwal, is currently, the managing editor of foreign policy magazine before. That he spent more than a decade with CNN, where he worked in New York London and most, recently in New Delhi where he was the Regents bureau chief the, book has, received quite, a bit of praise already, Fareed. Zakaria calls, it quite simply the best book about India today Nicholas, Thomson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine says. The, story of how India got wired is one of the most important, in the world today and you won't find a better guide than Ravi. Agarwal, that, conversation. Couldn't be more important, for us here at Google to. Embrace robustly, just, given the fact that we are one of the key drivers of, the smartphone revolution, 80%. Of the smart phones in India are Android, smartphones. So, I don't. Think we can be thoughtful, enough. About. Ensuring, that our products, and technologies, not, only help build, a more technologically. Enabled India, but, a better India and to unpack distill, discuss. That even further I'll, bring Ravi up on the stage. I. Want. To start off with with, the smartphone revolution you, talk about how in, 2020. Million Indians were connected, to the Internet in 2017. That number was 465, million and you project in 2025. That that number is going to be more than a billion and you, you, talk about the ways in which that's similar to kind of the advent of the automobile and. The transformational. Impact that it had here, in, the United States from, kind of the creation of suburbia the interstate highway to. Where very. Often someone got their first kiss long weekends, all. Sorts, of kind, of tremendous, impacts, and you talk about how the. Smartphone is doing the, same in India which. Makes. It not simply an evolution, as it's been here in the United States but a revolution, so would love for you to kind of talk about how, India got here to this moment where, is it right now and where, do you anticipate it's. Going to be ten, years from now as a result of the smartphone revolution, that's. A great question thank you for having me thank you all of you for attending, and. Really it's it's very special, for me to come speak at Google and as Aaron said Google's, playing such a huge, role in the. Growth of the internet in India and in, fact expanding, the. Pie of Internet users in India so, to begin with your first point about how, India is going through a smartphone, revolution. The. Reason why I use, the word revolution in the book and I don't use it lightly is to contrast, it with the, way in which the West has people.
In The West have discovered, the Internet so for most of you in this room you, know my assumption, would be that you. Know sometime in the late 1990s. You had a PC, and a telephone landline and, then, you got a dial-up, internet connection. And then you evolved, from there to. DSL. And cable broadband. And then you got your routers, you had Wi-Fi, and then, eventually you had 3G on a phone 4G, on a phone and you, are where you are today, in. India a very, small slice of Indians, who were rich privileged. Usually. Urban, often, mail had. Access, to those things only 2% of Indians had access to telephone, landline, in the, year 2000. A similar, percentage of Indians had access, to pcs and that's why there. Were only 20, million Indians, online, in the year 2000, and the numbers then began to jump very rapidly in 2010, there are a hundred million Indians online by, 2015. There were 300. Million Indians, online, and now, we're crossing half, a billion the, projections, are that it'll reach 800 million, by 2025, and then, a billion shortly, thereafter all. Of, this growth is gonna come from smartphones. Why because, smartphones in India are very cheap they, are easily accessible, they. Are for most Indians, not just, a, smartphone, as it is for you guys here, for most Indians, the smartphone is their first camera, it is their first screen, it is, also their first walkman, and mp3 player it is the first of many things in one device, and that's why it's. As transformative. As it is for most Indians, this, is a gateway to many forms, of technology all of it in one, go you. Could be illiterate, in India and, you can still speak to your phone you you, know the old internet, was mostly for English speakers in India the new internet is for, people who speak, you. Know a multitude of Indian languages, and thanks, to Google in part those, languages, are all now accessible, on the Internet. There's. A great analogy with with the car which you brought up and, I like. To compare, the moment, that India is going through right now to the, moment that America, went through a century. Ago so. You, know America, invented the car and with, the car you. Created roads and highways and the interstate, system and, then with that tens. Of thousands, of jobs were created, and America. Built suburbia, and the picket fence tomé and with, that you had the commute and along. The commute you needed to create an infrastructure, so that infrastructure, was gas stations, and, multiplex. Is and movie, theaters and, the, drive-in, restaurant, and so much more the 7-elevens. Think, of all of those things as a national. Infrastructure. Across the country, and it wasn't just that they were a cultural. And an imaginative. Infrastructure. As well I mean for. Most Americans, the, car was, their, first private, property, it was, literally, a tool of mobility, it was. The. Vehicle in which they sort of injected, their dreams and their ambitions you, know for the baby boomer generation in. Hollywood. It was enshrined, I mean think of the the, race and, the chase and the bank heist every Hollywood. Movie of a certain era was defined, around the car the car defined. Americans, I mean if you drove a pickup truck or a sedan. Or, a hatchback, it, kind of explained. Who you were and where you were headed, take. All of those, things and. Transpose. It to India today. The. Smartphone, defines, who, you are are you an iPhone person. And therefore, do you have 1,200. Dollars to spend on a phone likely. Not in India I'm doing because as we know Apple. Hasn't been able to make serious inroads into, India. But. The phone says a lot more about who you are and by. The same token the phone is creating. An entire, infrastructure. Of payments. Of communication. It's building trust, with, maps, with, education. With, various. Tools that people are using. For. All of those reasons for, a country, that is as young as India is average, age 27. Average. Income, less, than $2,000. A year you. Take all of those things together for. A country that's marching. And on the rise and. The. Thesis of my book is that this one device, this one tool will. End up being incredibly. Transformative. For, the country that's. Know and I think one of the stories that you start the book off that really illustrates, that compellingly. Is the story, of Poole. With E who. Is a Google saute and you can explain, what, that is I have, to admit I fell a little bit in love with Poole with you think about her she's like on her bicycle going, around rural Rajasthan, introducing, the Internet for the first time to two, women in these villages, would. Love for you to kind of talk. About how you first like found her, her, story and then what kind of broader lessons. We. Can draw about her example, and the, penetration of India should not only for women but for for rural communities sure it's. So great to talk about food with you here because I'm coming full circle I I found, food worth eat through Google.
Not. The search engine but literally through people at Google who said you must take a look at Google sake and you must look into this story and so I did for. Those of you don't know Google Southie is a program. At. Google, where. Google. Is partnered, with many NGOs, across the country and it. Is. Giving. First, of all it's training rural, women how, to use, the internet and then it's arming them with. Smartphones. And tablets, and a bicycle, to. Then go out into, other villages, and teach and train other women, how, to use the internet how to familiarize, themselves with the Internet why, is this important, well. You. Might remember when, I was starting off I said the, old internet in India was urban, elite, and male, it. Was also English, and. The, reason why I say male is that, even. In 2014. About. 70, percent of, Internet users in India were. Male 30. Percent were women in villages. Only. One out of ten Internet, users were women and so. The. Big gap was, rural, women and women more nationally. Google. Obviously you. Know and you guys work on this realise. That this was a great market, to tap and. Not just for economic reasons but also for humanitarian. Reasons and. So. The saathi is what they've been doing is is in. A sort of peer-to-peer. Conversational. Way have. Been able to train other, rural. Women to use the internet and the reason why this is important, again is that illiteracy, is rife in these parts of India, you. Know in Rajasthan. The state in which I met fool with the. Female. Literacy rates, are at about about 50 percent. Which. Means there, are all these women who. Cannot read or write anything at all and so, the internet for them was always going to be a thing that they could never dream of using not, on a PC, not, on a phone not on a regular phone and, voice technology changed. All of that fool, with the and, I begin the book with her. Speaking. To some some, other villages, and she. Says you. Know ask this thing Google, ask it something and most of them don't know what to ask I mean you know and then one woman says well. You. Know show us the Taj Mahal and, a. Video. Pops up she. Says it in Hindi she says Magette Dodge Mahal the cow and a video pops up and, they. Press, play and for, the first time they see moving, imagery. Of this Monument that they have all grown. Up as knowing, as the most beautiful thing in India it, was a very profound moving. Moment for me as well to see that and it. Gives you a sense of of. How technology really, can, break. Through, so. Many of the, boundaries that we've built in India not, just gender but also caste, and, geography.
And Language and literacy, and. Fula. The--was, if, you read the book was just a great example of, a. Woman, who was completely. Intimate, Abul in spirit and. You. Know was able to venture out into all these villages and very, enthusiastically. Be sort of an internet. Evangelist. Or, Google evangelist. And. She's paid only a very small amount of money to. Do this but was doing it mostly because she she, was really excited about the project, for. Those of you being to India you know it's it's quite rare to see women on bicycles wearing, a full saree and heading out into the villages and you know the southies are doing just that which. Is a real, testament, to their, enthusiasm. For the Internet yeah. And it's it's what's what, was interesting about her case is you you, talk about the fact that she had a husband, that was like very supportive, of of what she was doing which enabled her to be such an enthusiastic, kind, of ambassador, for the sati program there, was a quote in the book where you talk that you brought up caste you, where, you talk about how Karl, Marx in the 1850s, thought that the railroad, was going to get rid of the caste system in India and, there. Have been all sorts of technologies since then that have been like this is the vanguard of like put, maybe, pushing against, some of these more ancient social, or cultural systems, and. Those. Obviously failed but, you feel more bullish about the smartphone. Yeah, what's. Different, about the smartphone that you feel is gonna break through some of these more. Older. Kind of patriarchal, systems so, I. Am. More bullish. There. Are still obstacles for, example there are entire villages, in India where the smartphone, is banned for women and. I go to one of these villages in Gujarat and the. Men I spoke to there said. That you. Know women just can't, use this they're not smart enough they don't have the. They're. Not capable of, dealing with the Internet and and really, what they were trying to tell me without saying it, in as many words is that they. Were frightened, of what. It would mean to give women access to. The Internet they, were frightened, of what it meant to give women freedom. You. Know they had built around. In. Fact entire societies, were built around. You. Know, patriarchal. Systems where women had very little agency, and so in a sense one. Of the greatest obstacles to. Allowing. The internet to reach, all. Indians, is men, and mostly rural men but, that said I, think. The, reason, why I'm, more bullish about the phone than any other, technology. Is that the. Phone is a catalyst, and, it's coming at a moment, when. So. First of all it is cheap it is accessible, it is aspirational. But. It's coming along. With, a range of other forces there's a confluence, of events at play and those, events are, globalization. Cheap. Technology, the, creation, of smartphones. Which you, know let's face it our unprecedented, Lee, you, know compact. And powerful, and able. To take all of these things into one device all of these other devices into, one device but. Also rising. Income levels in India the. Ability. For. Bigger. Indian, companies. To take big, decisions, set up big infrastructure. Projects, you, may have heard of Reliance Geo which is a company that you, know for the first six months of its launch essentially. Made data free, in India so. If, you look at all of those things together we're, at a moment. Fairly. Unprecedented, in India's history where. The smartphone, is just. Perfectly, poised to reach, so, many people and to give them all these, different things in one goal that, we're not gonna happen organically your. PCs were not gonna reach a majority. Of Indians organically, cameras. Were not gonna reach a majority, of Indians organically, but you put it into one device you put all of these things in one device at a very, low price point, geo. For example, leaves us out a very you know it's a very basic phone, but it's kind of a smart phone for twenty, three dollars it's. A three year lease for twenty three dollars you can buy certain. Chinese and Indian made phones, for. Somewhere between 50 and 150 dollars now. At that price point when, you include all of these things its irresistible. One. Of the the. Kind of gaps, that you talk, about the smart phone being able to bridge is the urban rural gap, but also kind of linguistic gap to your point earlier the. Mobile phone has primarily been or. The smartphone and. PC, before that was primarily targeted. An english-speaking audience, and that's that's started to change I think one of the stories that really illustrates, that is the, story of a Abdul, if, you started this education, app tell us about that sure. So. I, have a chapter on education. And one. Of the the, people I profile, in that chapter his name is Abdul Wahid then he. He's, a real sort of fixer-upper. Of a character, didn't. Go to an English school growing up so he never really spoke English well and you.
Know In India to succeed, you. You, know speaking English is a huge, leg up and. So. He started. Using an app called hello, English which. Is, one of India's top educational. Apps and the. Way hello English works is as. Long as you speak some other Indian language say Hindi and you, can read the English alphabet you're, able to then play these games that teach you or. Help you improve your conversational English. And so, a blue aahed was playing this game every day sitting, you know on the toilet seat sitting in traffic jams and he got better and better and better and he, was ranked number one out of millions of users, worldwide and so I found, him and sort. Of profiled, him and his story was amazing because, he. Essentially. Became, a confident. Man. And. A confident, teacher he runs a coaching, Institute, in Rajasthan, through. Not only hello, English this app because he couldn't afford was, that a stone or going, to a school. But. He also, became. A you know through through, YouTube, and watching videos, of motivational. Speakers, and stuff. Like that he just was, able to become a very confident, educator, and and, that struck me as you. Know the kind of thing that that. It's, hard to quantify, nationally. Like there's no you. Know metric, to look at those kinds, of intangible, improvements, in people's lives but also in, that chapter, I. Also. Looked at learning. Outcomes, for for children because I think if you look at the biggest space for. Disruption in India it really is early, childhood education. And. The reason is that you. Know India has opened a lot of schools but, these schools don't always train people in the right way and. There all of these studies that show, that. Learning, outcomes for children, was, greatly, reduced after, the age of seven eight which. Meant that the. Reason why they were dropping off on math and literacy is, because, frankly they couldn't read they couldn't read and write and so they weren't able to progress further and there's. A lot of research now and there are many NGOs, that are working in, this space but the, phone has really come true as a tool that could allow people, to. Improve. Their basic. Numeracy and, literacy at. The lowest levels which, would really work at a mass way to India's, advantage. It, kind, of take a step back and kind of think about some of the the macro, trends that have enabled. A lot of the the, evolutions. That you discuss in the book, it. Strikes me with the kind of analogy, of the automobile, that it required a robust partnership, between the, state and private companies. To get that right and kind. Of the state knowing when to lean in and when to lean back at. The end of the book you actually do a really good job of, of. Framing. Up that narrative in the context, of the of mobile phones in India, there's. Like an Indian American businessman, who has a conversation, with Rajiv Gandhi to, kind of really pave the way to bring. Telephones. To India which was a luxury. As late as as, the early 1980s. Would. Love for you to kind of talk about that evolution, particularly. With an eye towards, what. It what is the right way that kind of private forces and public, institutions can work together, to, really take advantage and, bring to fruition the, potential, of these, new technologies. You. Know the. Telephony. In India has, mostly. Been a private. Sector story so the public, sector story was what you were describing of, the 60s 70s early, 80s. Of, the. State trying to get basic. Telephone, landlines, to people and that, was something that the state largely failed, at and, one. Innovation, that really worked for the state was when they opened, what. Was known as these, STD, ISDN, PCO. Booths and these, were basically. Telephone. Booths but. They, were manned, by shopkeepers. Or, a 7-eleven, mom-and-pop, store owners, there. Basically at marketplaces. And, you would go in and you. Could. You. Know pay for a metered call. Local. Or international as, the case would be and that allowed many, people, to get access to telephony in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise, but. You. Know in terms of mobile, telephony when, the state first, began.
To Sort of. You. Know open up and in that sense. There, was still many many restrictions, for the private sector and you. Know it was through sheer. Sort. Of, you. Know force of will in, the form of the private sector that you. Know 3G, and 4G finally. Took off in India, basically. Through advertising, and, and offers from the private sector that allowed, it to reach Indians. In a mass way and then the, second, wave was through hardware, so you, know the the handsets, and and cheaper, smartphones all of which are led, by the private sector in India, I. Think, the space we're at now is. You. Know the government, has largely ceded, a lot of this space to the private sector but I think, where the government could be very important, and, where, the private sector could work closely with the government on is. Is regulation. In terms of you know how to regulate this market how, to regulate the, entrance of new players how to regulate, foreign. Players versus, Indian players but. Then the second thing that is very important, to me and and is really a large part of the book as well is to, sort, of deal with some of the adverse, effects, of of, the smartphone boom in India and those, range from addictions, to, fake. News to. Pornography and. To. And, we can get into some more detail on those topics but just. To use the analogy with the car, once, again you. Know. Governments. Around the world and the private sector, partnered. On cars. With. Advertising, basically. And in terms of telling people that the, car is clearly a tool, for immense, good but, it is also a weapon of mass destruction so, you. Need to not drink and drive you need to wear seatbelts when you're driving and, those. Were public, interest campaigns, that were, very important, I think for societies, around the world and I've. Begun, to see smartphones, is something quite similar to, the car in that respect, where you. Know smartphones, and technology, can also be immensely. Destructive to, societies, especially a, society. Like India which is you, know still so, nascent. And gullible in so many ways. With. Superstitions, in in in various communities, and. The. Notion, of being able to see this device as something, that has immense. Potential, for good but also for, bad and what. To do with that and how to deal with that is very important and I think that's a space that, public. And private can really cooperate, on yeah, I think that's a great segue into what, I'd love for us to unpack a little bit more. The. The. First part of the book is very much about the opportunities, of the smartphone revolution in, education healthcare and, empowering. Women all across the country I think the, the second part is when you talk about some. Of some. Of the potentially negative consequences. And you talk about the. Story of Sheikh Halim and. The lynching that took place that. Was more or less driven by communication, messaging, apps. Talk. Talk, to me a little bit about that and this is really me putting my, Google News and it should have had on.
The. Evolution, of misinformation deep, fake synthetic, media misinformation, how, you see that playing out in in. India and the role and responsibility, that you feel. Platforms. Should. Should. Take in, addressing, that sure. So, you. Know many of you have heard the stories of you, know lynchings. That have taken place in India, Hindu. Muslim related, violence, mob, violence and much, of this tends to stem from, the. Proliferation, of, fake news on. Messaging. Apps specifically. Whatsapp, which is very popular, in India but, also other, messaging. Apps in India I hesitate. To put the blame squarely at, the place of messaging, apps because, it, is not as if, rumors. Didn't spread before it is not as if there were not lynchings, and mob violence before technology. Technology. Has just allowed for the spread of these things faster, and quicker. Than, was possible before. What. Often happens, is. That. People, in, India are often, not equipped, in the same way to, decipher, and deal with fake news as people, maybe in the West and. Think. Of it this way I mean when you all first started using the Internet let's. Say in the late 90s, you. Had a hotmail account and, you, would get a chain mail and the, chain mail would say if you don't forward this to 15 people you'll be unlucky in love and you're, laughing there I mean many of you have probably hit forward and sent it to 15 people until. A friend or two says hey this is stupid don't do that and then you don't do that but, remember when I was talking about the, West's evolution. Versus India's revolution, so you. All have evolved. With the internet and you've evolved, with your mistakes and you've learned not, to make those mistakes over time so you are now more. Discerning, consumers. Of the internet and all fake news and you, you're, better able to to. Judge you, know what is true what is false what smells right what. To forward what not to. That's. Less so of the case in India because again hundreds. Of millions of people are discovering, the. Internet right now on, smartphones, and they, haven't built the same nose for. Fake news, add. To, the fact that they are you. Know not, as privileged they don't have the same levels of education, they.
Don't Have the same levels of media literacy necessarily. And. Various. Societies in India were quite superstitious to, begin with so you take all of those things together with. The power of social media to amplify. In. A viral fashion, and you have a cocktail that's quite dangerous. It's. A huge challenge for I, think tech companies to figure out but also society. To figure out and the government to figure out and, as I was saying earlier I think, you. Know media literacy would, be something. That I think tech companies if they can play a part in helping, communities. Understand. The basics, of how to decipher, what is news you know you, know who's, funding it what's, the date line is written by a human being, you know is it from a wire service what is it and, then, also just the basic, pitfalls, of what happens when you fall with something basic you. Know how this can be exponential. You know how to trust how to verify that's. Very important it's a conversation, that has just begun to take place in India, but, you. Know as a journalist, I can tell you with elections, around the corner in India this is an issue of grave concern a, lot of things could go wrong before, Indian society, figures out how to get it right yeah and it's as you, will know it's supposed to be quite the challenge here in the States so absolutely. I imagine it's even it's, even more even greater in India on the same vein of like some, of the potential pitfalls of, the, smartphone revolution one, of the parts of one, of the chapters that really kind of. Shocked. Me was like entirely news to me. Concerns. Just broadly a conversation, on on sexuality, and, how it shows up online. But. You talk about kind. Of the advent, of very violent, pornography, and, how that's become readily, accessible to. To. Hundreds. Of millions of people in, India, and, you don't necessarily, draw. Direct, causal relationship, between that and the. Horrific. Crimes. That we've seen in the last few years in. India but. You do kind of allude to the fact that there is something there that's worth exploring based. Off of kind of exploring, that story do. You feel like tech platforms have, a responsibility.
To Curb or curtail that sort of content. This. Is a tough question because I. The. Last thing I would ever want to advocate is curtailing. Or. Censoring, content, and, yet. Pornography. Is one of those things where, you have to wonder are people. Properly, sensitized, to deal with it and the reason why I say this is look. Growing up in the West is so different from growing up in a village in India if, you, grow up here you are sensitized, at a young age to the. Human body I mean you go to the beach you see you. Know if you're a young boy you see a woman's legs at a very young age and, you, know you talk about sex, you go to co-ed schools you, have a healthier, relationship with. Sexuality. If you are a young, boy in rural India you, may have a very, very, different relationship, with the human body with sexuality, with sex. Given. That backdrop, if your first. Experience. Of sexuality. Is violent. Pornography, and. Add. To that the fact that this is not something you can talk about with your family, this, is not something you can talk about at school so. You have no way of deciphering, it and interpreting, it there. Are real problems with, that and you, know as a journalist, again when I was reporting in India one of the things that. The. Worst stories, that I often, had to cover with very violent, gang rapes. And. Other types of rape across the country and, it. Was a deeply, deeply disturbing. Thing to cover and on the one hand of course rape, happens everywhere this is not uniquely, a problem, unique to India it's not unique to any country. But. It did get me wondering, you know is there a connection between this. Explosion, in pornography this, explosion, in access, to pornography because, again you. Know if you were. A teenager in America 10-15, years ago you, could hide a Playboy, magazine under your, mattress. For. Most Indians that was not an option that you know privacy, works very differently in India access. Works very differently you don't grow up most, Indians didn't grow up with a. TV. And and, and a VCR or a DVD player so. The, internet changes, everything a private, viewing. Device changes, everything, and I. Do wonder quite openly in the book whether there is a link between pornography. And rape whether there is a link between. Porn. And, you. Know sexuality. In India and I don't have answers I mean this is where I have to be honest in that you, know a lot of the data shows that there. May not be a link. But. But I I sort, of closed, that chapter you. Know just very much in two minds and I think this, is a conversation, and. A debate that I think needs to take place more. Widely in India in a very open fashion, and. The reason why I say this again is that sex, and sexuality. You. Know is, not. New to, India if you go back, 500. Years a thousand, years you, think again of the Kama Sutra and think of temples. In India that really. Enshrine, sex and sexuality. So. Notions, of openness, about sex should not be new to India but, a notion. Of sort of prudishness, was introduced, into Indian society, through. Colonization. And and you know it was more of a Victorian, import. You, know think of the blouse and the petticoat, and the you. Know so, many things that that didn't, even exist in India before that so, it's, the, waters are quite, muddied on this but I do think it's an issue that that needs to be debated openly I wanted. To pivot a little bit to. Kind of the relationship, between or. The role of the state and in. Some of these technologies, you. You kind. Of talk very compellingly, about the. Fact that India is the world's leader in digital blackouts, and specifically. Most of that takes place in the state of Kashmir and then you also kind of talk about some, of these very digital. Forward, initiatives, like other for example which like. Sound, incredible. In terms of their potential if we can get it right but there, have been conversations around, data, breach and privacy, leaks from that the. It's. The kind of theme that percolates, throughout the book like this is an incredible technology that like, we, should that can do all these incredible.
Things And its, really addressing. And solving real problems for, a lot of people but. When but, we have to be careful, about like the state's role, and. Particularly. Trusting, state. With data, and privacy would. Be great to get. Your, sense of do, you I mean having, written. The book now like do you feel like the state in India is equipped, to. Properly. Manage and handle this. Data in a way that ensures. That, we get the better end of, of. The potential, I don't. Know is the honest answer I mean what we do know is that, everyone. Needs checks, and balances including, the state including. Big corporations. So, for example, if. You haven't read this yet. India, has more internet. Shutdowns. Than any other country on earth Syria. And Iraq are two and three and, what. This means is that at any given moment the, state can just switch off the internet so it basically. Has the. The biggest mobile provide cellular providers, on speed dial and it, can call them and say all right in this particular area, shut, down the internet this often happens in Kashmir after encounters, with terrorists. And the reason the logic is that, again. To use the car analogy if there's a car crash right outside here the police will likely cordon, off the street and so. Digitally. Speaking, if there, is a clash, between the, police and militants, in Kashmir. The. The, authorities, would shut off the internet so that, militants. Wouldn't, be able to, you. Know send out imagery, on social media or seek help or anything, like that now, on. The one hand there's, a clear, use, for, this but, on the other hand there is immense. Misuse. Especially. If it isn't properly codified. You. Know under what circumstances. Is the government allowed to, impose a shutdown who, makes the decision, is there, any accountability, is there, any recourse, if a wrong decision was made and then, linked, to all of that is over time so. Cushion the state of Kashmir for, example, it. Lost hundreds. Of millions, of dollars in lost business and, this is according to a study by Brookings. Because. The internet was shut down for months so. You. Know those, are clear, examples of, the state. You. Can call it overreaching, you can call it you, know taking a draconian, approach to dealing with the problem but. Again, for. All the good that, the internet and the proliferation of smartphones can do in, a place like India there. Is so much gray area, and so much of sort of new, areas, of regulation that that haven't really been covered, or discussed, in the public space and Internet shutdowns, is chief among them oddvar, is a very interesting top, in and of itself, for. Those of you don't know that's the the. Biometric. ID system, in India that has now signed up I think, it's about 1.2, billion people it's. A system. That basically, allows. People to say I am me so it's an ID card with. Fingerprints. And retinal, scans included. And. This. Is part of a very polarized. Debate in India there. Are people, who will say that this could have immense, positive, impacts, in, terms of, you. Know people being able to have an ID. To open bank accounts to open to get cell phone lines to, get subsidies, from the government so on and so forth but. There are many who will also tell you critics. Who will say that. This. Could be misused by, the state it could. Be there, could be leakages, there, could be hacks, you. Can't change your fingerprints, so once you lose them to someone else you're in trouble so, on and so forth I tend, to fall somewhere between in. The middle of that debate where, I think you can't deny, that there, is immense potential to this and I, think the, government on the other hand needs. To address the critics and openly acknowledge, that there, have been leaks and and. This again is where the private sector could could help in. Terms of how, to plug those leaves how, to have better security and, how, to be more upfront about. Where things stand, better communication all, around which I think the private sector has immense experience with, one. Of them one, of the striking, chapters. Is on a topic that the. Folks who followed Indian politics, over the last couple of years would be well aware of demonization, the, what's interesting about that particular chapter was you, kind of follow the story of this auto rickshaw, driver and kind, of his journey through dealing, with the aftermath of Dee monetization, there's, a line around you, wondered like whether or not he'd ever be able to learn how to use a smartphone and really. Really. Be able to join in this like increasingly. Digital, economy, what. Responsibilities. Do you think society, and tech companies have for. Those who in the short term or maybe even term maybe even long term are being, left behind, by the, yes increasing, wave of digitization. So. You can contrast, food, with the story with the story of survey, shoes an auto rickshaw driver I met, in Delhi and followed around for two years now and.
He. Knows deep, down that, he just cannot, use a smartphone, he can't bring himself to use a smartphone doesn't. Understand, it is very intimidated. By technology that, can't even afford it to begin with and. The. Reason why that even came up is. During. D monetization, which for those of you don't know was a moment, where the government recalled. The, two highest currency. Denomination, notes from. The market which was 86, percent of all cash and replaced. It with two, other notes the, reason being that they wanted a to, get rid of so-called black money in the system which is money. That hasn't, on. Which income tax hasn't been paid and B, to move, India towards, digital payments. But. In, that chaotic, moment, which most economists, worth their salt have decried as you, know a horrendous, stupid. Decision which has cost India as much, as 2% of its GDP but. In that chaotic, moment, many, people suffered, for their livelihoods including. Surveys this auto rickshaw, driver because, all, of his his. Rides, were paid for in cash and. Because, people didn't have cash he, wasn't making any money so, he was really struggling and in that moment when I was interviewing him for CNN. I I asked, him well hey why, don't you use uber why, don't you sign up for Ola, which is obras Indian, equivalent, and, competitor, and that's, where it all came up he just was very intimidated. By technology. Didn't, have a smartphone and, felt. Like this was just not for him and and, I. Contrast. That story with fool with these because it's. One thing for us to think of technology. As you. Know if you just build it and people will come that's. Not necessarily. Going to happen especially in, places like India, where there, are so many barriers and, think, of not just people like service were young I, he's in his 20s and. Should, really, be able to learn. But. Think of older people in India India has about you.
Know 250, million people who were over the age of 55. 60 and for, those people, technology. Is very intimidating, it's very hard to just be given a smartphone and then learn how to use it and learn how to communicate and learn how to use apps so. That. Space. Was very important, for me to explore as well because, it's, it's sort of a, counterpoint. To the narrative, that Tech is necessarily, gonna transform, India and, as much as tech. Will transform, India I think India will also, transform, tech I think. You, know there India has all these unique ways of dealing with tech you know Indians are still. Much. More comfortable, with cash than, they are with digital payments. Indians. Prefer, dual SIM phones over single sim phones because they like to switch between service, providers, Indians. Prefer prepaid. Cellular. Contracts, instead of postpaid because they, don't trust large. Companies, to give them good service not only that large, companies don't trust them to pay up on time so they prefer prepaid. Options as well so for. All of those reasons India. Is just a unique, market. And. A. Very large market, that I think is, is. Going to evolve. And change in, its own very, special ways and. My. Last question before we open it up for Q&A. So. Given that given, how unique India is and the. Realities, that we've unpacked here, so, far let's. Say you know hypothetically, you are a product manager, overseeing. Android or you're, in charge of, building. Out products, for the next billion users in India, what. Are some of the things that you'd keep in mind or that you would feel are, our. Considerations. That would be front and center in how. You approached. Rolling. Out those products and the sorts of products that you built, that's. A great question, I'm sure, Google, is doing all of these things already but I would. If I, was a product manager I would bring onboard, people like Survey boobity I would bring on board people, who. Are not literate people, who have. Never used any technology, before and see. What, kinds of problems they're encountering I, would, the. English market in India is already very well served. It's, the Indian. Language, market, hindi bengali tamil, telugu sana and so forth that, is still underserved and I, would explore, how, those users, engage. With the internet what, they need. What. They're struggling with and then. Links, to all of that I would. Really focus on digital literacy and media literacy I think.
There. Is with. The great power that companies. Like Google have, in, places, like India, comes. A responsibility I, believe to. Help. People navigate things. That, could, do immense good but can do immense harm as well and so you. Know, stepping. In where the state has failed you know to help people. Understand. You. Know to, learn how to engage with news to. Learn what is right what is wrong to. Verify. To. Build, that, you know, that inner sense. Of. About. That aptitude, of being able to gauge you, know what is real and what is fake that. Will be one of the great challenges for Indian society, and if I was, able. To do that, as. A product, manager I think that's one of the things I would spend a lot of time thinking about and I. Think whoever is able, to fix that in the private sector would have done an immense. Immense. Service, to, a place like India because, you, know India, doesn't have to repeat the mistakes of the, West India, India's. Path could, be different, through technology, and we. All talk about the word leapfrog. And. India will leapfrog in many ways it will leapfrog credit, cards it will leapfrog. So. Many different things that the West has, evolved, through but, leapfrog, isn't, necessarily, a good thing you. Can leapfrog to a place as well that's, where I think the private sector can really help with and sort, of speed up that learning process and, not assume, that, that. Learning process is already in place so. We'll, open, it up for audience questions there. Are two mics just one there and one there. Folks. Want to start, queuing up. First. Of all thank you very very interesting, talk I think. Throughout this talk, mostly. Or even or even completely, we've. Contrasted. India with with the West the, United States, specifically, and. You. Know there are some ways where you know we share similar, problems, one one, thing one obvious thing that we did talk, about was. Sexual. Content online I think, even in the United States the, availability of problematic, content, online far outpaces. The availability, of good sexual education in, most, of this country this. Is an example so I am wondering what. What. Lessons, have you learned from your exploration. Of how India got connected, that. Might apply to the, United States as well Wow. So the other way around. Well. That's, a great question, I think, because India's discovered, all of these things later, it, is sort of learning, from, the West's mistakes, as it, goes along but. In terms of lessons. From India. You. Know, one. Takeaway, I think would be that. Cultures. Use. Technology. In ways that are very unique to them and I, think especially. For. For. Investors, here, you know anyone who's dealing with products that are global, I think. It's very important, to see each. Culture. Each community, each country, as having. Very. Unique ways of dealing with technology. And so, for example the when. I was talking about cash. You. Know Indians Indians. What I like to call a very low trust. And, and. That's because, Indians. Almost always just assume, that anything that could go wrong in a system will, go wrong Indians. Don't show up for meetings on time because they don't expect the other person to show up on time, Indians. Like to pay for things in cash because, they. Think something, could go wrong with a credit card. So. You know cash, on delivery is a very big thing in India. Amazon's. Big competitor, in India Flipkart began. As a company, that was. Delivering. Books to people and then those customers, would pay for it in cash at their doorsteps. And, the reason why I'm explaining. This as a lesson, for America, is that. You. Know. Each. Market, will develop, in its own way and will have its own sort of unique, relationship. With how, technology. Develops, and how it should be used. That. Said I wish. I could tell you that India, for, all of its great. Connections. With faith and religion, you know India was the birthplace of four religions, it was the birthplace of yoga, I wish, I could tell you that Indians have a better relationship with screens, and they. Don't I, think. Addictions. As much as as, much as a screen, addiction as a problem here in the West it, is becoming, so in India and so in, that sense. India. Really has no lessons, to offer, and. And the the solution to that problem will have to be a global one. I, really. Thanks for joining. I. Wanted, you to go a little bit more into. That you briefly mentioned regulation, regulation of technology and the foreign was this Indian company, dynamic. And I've. Seen many stories. Recently about the common wanting to change how things are and the status quo things like their localization stuff, like that so I just wanted to hear thoughts on how, things look right now and what you think will happen in the future like is India gonna have become another China in terms of foreign.
Companies Not being able to play yeah. On the same I. Mean, I don't think India can become, another China and I don't think even. The government, wants to do that China. Is just such a different market to begin with their, Internet is you. Know almost, like one language they, have apps that are as you all know an entire. Ecosystem in, and of itself, India's. Evolution, with the Internet has been so different number one you. Know India has more than 200, million english-language. Users. Right. From the start, Western. Companies, were allowed in and became. The. Leaders, of the, Indian internet Google, being first among them but, also Amazon, and uber and so, many other companies that made, it big in India quite, early I think, what you're seeing now more, recently in terms of regulation, is is. India. And this government's, reaction to. Western. Companies having such a large slice, of the pie and. So. For example in the e-commerce space, you. Know if the Indian government is restricting. The. Amount, that Western. Companies can own in a company or the. Amount of business that they can do in a certain space I think they're, doing that primarily, just to protect, local. Companies, from being able to survive and stay in the game I, don't, think, it, will ever rise, to the levels of either. China, or even, sort of the protectionism, that we saw in India in. The 80s. Because. India I think, one of the things you must. See, about India is that. You. Know every. Politician every. Regulator. Looks to 1991. As, the. Yeren which the Indian economy really opened up and benefited. From opening, up i I just cannot, see India. Going back on that I, cannot. See even this government, you. Know stepping back on that front I think they realized, that, opening. Up is where where their strength lies, and. I think they also realized, that the market isn't static its growing so fast that. There's enough space for everyone. Thanks. For being here I remained.
Largely, Ignorant, of India short of some stories from Arun about his personal, travels before this talk and and. Very interested, in you mentioned the way that India will change technology. Is. There infrastructure. In place for. Either. Developers. In India phone makers in India to really learn at scale, how, to build, better technology. For those, that are often overlooked in the West poor. People beyond. Just the cost of phone and sort of reducing access to entry actually. Building technology, that serves you know at the app level or one layer further some. Of those more rural, and offering separated, populations, yeah. There is that's a great question, I think most of it is led by the private sector again. If. You look at. So. I, coming. Back to education I, talked about an, Indian, company and my chapter on education, it's, called ake step which means one step and, they. Have developed. Essentially. They. Like to think of themselves as you. Know for, example the uber of primary, education where. They've. Created a platform where other developers. Can. Jump in and create multilingual, content for. Primary schools or primary, school teachers, to be able to use for their students, and it. Really is a great example of. Sort. Of you, know Indian, tech developers, using, their, technologies. And this was inspired by Aadhaar so. It's sort of an openstack, kind, of system that allows, other, companies, to create other things around it think. Of other itself, the biometric, ID system, which is Indian. Its indigenous. It's. Indian run Indian, engineers. And. This was the government's, initiative but it was led by you. Know private-sector techie and on the Nilekani for those of you don't know him. Who found co-founded, emphasis, but. Again the basic logic being, that. You. Can harness Indian, strengths, and Indian workers. To. Create these open, platform, systems, that could then plug, in to other, aspects. You know it could plug into the banking sector it can plug in to, the. Government subsidy scheme is and so on and so forth so, I think that, space, is where most of the innovation is taking taking place. More. Than any, other space I would say you.
Know If you look at other spaces like, search, or messaging. I would, argue that the most innovation, is taking place in the West or maybe in China and, India's, development, on, that front is more derivative. My. Question was more so as a feature so, if you look at in here right now it. Is the country is still not fully units realize there are a large fraction of population this living. At. The best you're talking about in the next decade, - how say. Our intelligence. Will take away jobs and. I will assume that may be a, rickshaw. Could. Be as profitable, as ssfahring car for a company that wants to make it yeah so do, you have any thoughts about what, how. A country like India that is so behind in terms of technology and terms, of. Industrialization. Would be affected. On. The line yeah. It's. A great question and. I try to deal with this a little bit in the book so. There two things going on on the one hand. The. Rise of, smartphones, will, lead in the immediate. Future I think to immense job creation, so. If you think of the, e-commerce market, which is gonna grow leaps. And bounds in India. The. Kinds of jobs that you create with the e-commerce market, are, ideally. Suited to the Indian labor profile, so you've. Got delivery, jobs you've got packing, jobs warehousing. Jobs those. Are exactly the kinds of jobs that rural, Indian, men mostly, are, exactly. Primed for, they. Don't need more education. Those. Are the kinds, of jobs they're looking for they're relatively, well-paid for what they're looking for. So, they're enough. Studies out there that show that those. Kinds, of jobs will create you. Know tens, of millions of jobs over the next 10-15 years. That's. Sort of the shorter-term perspective. And then there many, other stories of you, know like there's an Indian, version. Of LinkedIn, for blue-collar workers, it's called ba ba jobs which, was then bought over by quicker and basically. It sort of connects people. Who. Are seeking a certain, type of job to that particular, type of employer, you, know if you're a Domino's, Pizza in India for example. You. Know you are looking for delivery man. The. Standards, for selecting. A delivery man is are, pretty low like if you show up for the job interview you're gonna get the job so. The real challenge there, is connecting, the seeker to the employer and technology. Will fix a lot of those issues, so. In the short term I think there's an immense benefits. The, longer term is where the troubles come around has. These. Giant warehouses. Get automated as deliveries. Get automated as. Cars. Get automated the, thing is it's. Hard for me to imagine those, things happening in India the way I can imagine than them happening in the West sea it's one thing to imagine, a. Drone. Delivering. A package, to. You. Know this giant, house in Pasadena, where it just drops it off in the garden, delivery, done but. Can you imagine the same drawing, delivering. The same product, to a slum in Mumbai where. You, know you're trying to hover over this, tiny Shack and they're like 200 children playing around there, then one, of them grabs the package, someone. Else grabs to draw and you know that, that's the end of the model right there. It's. Hard also to imagine. You. Know the algorithm that would work for. You. Know automated, driving in India I used to drive in India and you know you're navigating not just roads in cars but you're navigating people, and cows you, know so and other animals, and it's. Hard to imagine. Automation. Really, working in. These tiny narrow lanes, where. It, takes immense, on Genuity, you.
Know To scream and shout and Corral. Support, for your car to get out, so, on. The one hand I think when these things eventually get automated, in. India. You. Know we will see immense. Job, losses I just. I can't bring myself around, to seeing that moment I can't. Imagine it I don't know if you guys can at Google but it's, India's, a very different market yeah. And it speaks to our responsibility. To kind of be thoughtful, about some, of those consequences before, that yeah they really manifest, our, last audience question. Government. Is doing using. There. Has been I think the debate has been restricted, mostly, to. Sort. Of more. Elite policy. Circles and, amongst journalists. And civil society, and I don't imagine that, you. Know out of the 1.2, billion people who've signed up you. Know I would imagine the vast majority haven't. Really thought too much about privacy and you have to think again of where they're coming from most. Have come from a place where they had no form of ID no driver's license, certainly. No passport, no. Way of getting access. To, government subsidies, or products, so, this was a big leap and it was a useful leap for many people and, despite. Being a low trust society, it's very telling that they. Were able to invest some. Much trust in, the government in the hope of something better. And. That. Speaks to the, potential, for technology in India and how much how. Much hope people have for, what technology, could do and how it could better their lives but. As I was saying earlier there. Are many many things that could go wrong and and, that, is a debate, that needs to be had it is, something. That the government needs to be more open about. There. Certainly have been massive. Leaks and you. Know fessing, up to them nice and early and being transparent, would. Serve the government well I mean there you know everything has leaks it's it's owning, up to them and dealing with them that, eventually, will win people's. Trust I think so. That's a longer journey for India sorry go ahead yes. And. The, risks are like. What are the more immediate risks for. Other I. Think. The. Immediate risks, are a. Large-scale. Leaks, be, the. Information. From those leaks being. Harnessed in. Ways. That are particularly, insidious, so. It. Could be voter fraud it could, be. Impersonation. It could, be opening, fake accounts. There's. A range of things that one could see happening. Based. On leaked. Biometric. IDs all. Of that said. One. Advantage, of this system is that a. It. Is a government controlling, it not a company and. B. It, is data, that is fairly dumb, I mean it is your ID but. It doesn't have your browsing history it, doesn't have your. Sort. Of preferences, it's hard to sell that to an, ad, firm and see you, know it's it's not of immense value to. Someone. Else in, the way that, other. Leaks that we've seen from from other companies could be Facebook. Sneaks for example through Cambridge, analytic ah, so. In that sense I think the potential for, our heart to be dangerous, is, so, than. Other. Leaks that we now know about from. The private sector all. Of that said. One. Shouldn't dismiss, the. What. What could go wrong with that ha and I think. You. Know it's again, it's a conversation that needs to be had more, openly and robustly, in India thank. You all for being here thank. You so much. You.