Prime Minister Modi is the talk of the town right now with global media trying to cover and document every thing that he did and spoke about during his tour of the Silicon Valley. I happened to be in San Jose when he was around and it was great seeing the enthusiasm among the large Indian crowd in the Silicon Valley. Chants of “Bharat mata ki jai” are not really a common thing at the Google HQ.

So, the Indian Prime Minister made some great friends at Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, Tesla and more. But what is this latest hype about the Digital India campaign?

What is Digital India?

Digital India is an initiative by the Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. The programme envisages smooth and efficient governance, by leveraging internet technology and by taking an inclusive approach so that the people of the country become the real beneficiaries.

This programme encompasses broadband highways, mobile connectivity, public access to internet, governance, e-delivery of services, information availability, manufacturing, job opportunities and short-term goals such as common Wi-Fi access, biometric attendance system and e-books for schools.

Top industrialists like RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani, Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji and many others, were among the business honchos who shared their ideas of taking digital revolution to the masses.

The government is now looking for large partners to help in the Digital India campaign and this includes companies like Facebook and Google. While Facebook is intending to provide free internet access to the most rural parts of the country, on the other hand Google is looking to power free internet at India’s major railway stations.

It is needless to say that there is clear business benefit for both of these companies and many more who are part of the program.

But don’t you think there are many Indian companies and startups that can actually help in the Digital India campaign? Do we really need companies like Facebook and Google to help us out here? What happened to the whole Make In India thing!

The Nine Pillars of Digital India

  1. Broadband Highways
  2. Universal Access to Phones
  3. Public Internet Access Programme
  4. e-Governance – Reforming government through Technology
  5. e-Kranti – Electronic delivery of services
  6. Information for All
  7. Electronics Manufacturing – Target NET ZERO Imports
  8. IT for Jobs
  9. Early Harvest Programmes

What’s the whole FB picture hype?

Indian social media has been on fire since Monday morning, after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg changed his DP to add the Indian tricolour tint. He did so in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign.

After Zuckerberg changed his profile picture, many people in India started changing their display picture enthusiastically. Most people did not even know what they were doing, they simply did it because their friends did it and it seemed cool. While all this was going on, some people noticed that when you change your display picture, the html code underneath has a bit that contains the word Internetorg.

InternetOrg Scam

As you can guess now, all hell broke loose after that!

People posted questions, drew conclusions, developed conspiracy theories around those few lines of code on many social media platforms, including Facebook. All those discussions revolved around one question – ‘Is Facebook using Digital India campaign as a mask for promoting Internet.org?’

What is Internet.org?

Internet.org is a Facebook project to basically provide free or subsidises data for people in countries where costs of data access are high and incomes low. It has been in a controversy over alleged violation of the principles of net neutrality.

Net neutrality means that equal treatment be accorded to all internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.

Does your new FB pic mean you support Internet.org?

Reddit user ‘techaddict0099’, one of the first to start the trend, posted a screenshot of the code on Indian thread of the social platform. The post titled ‘This is what shows up when you visit page I support Digital India!’ was widely quoted by many others on their timelines who wanted to know what Internet.org has to do with Digital India campaign.

Responding to a query, a Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost India that there was no connection between the tricolour DP and Internet.org. “There is absolutely no connection between updating your profile picture for digital India and Internet.org. An engineer mistakenly used the words “Internet.org profile picture” as a shorthand name he chose for part of the code. But this product in no way connects to or registers support for Internet.org. We are changing the code today to eliminate any confusion.”

And as you might have guessed again, most people know this is a standard response expected out of a spokesperson.

So, what do you think about this whole thing? Did you also change your picture? Would you feel cheated if the Internet.org story is true, that Facebook actually tricked you to support the campaign?