So you might have heard that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is in India, as part of his multi-country Asia tour. This past week, Schmidt has been speaking quite vociferously about what he thinks the state of Internet in the country is and the potential for growth.
Schmidt is in the country to speak at The Guardian Big Tent Activate India event in New Delhi and has been meeting with reporters and even wrote a column in a leading daily, exhorting the leadership to bring some Internet reform in the country. The influential Google long-timer had called for the Indian leadership to bring a more open Internet to the country, which has seen some unique examples of entrepreneurship thanks to the power of the web.
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“It’s crucial for India to invest in and enable fast fibre internet connectivity within the country, between the country and other countries etc,” the ex Google CEO told CNBC TV18.
In the TV interview, which will be aired in its entirety later this week, Schmidt said that India has proven its capability and skill in handing the IT business in the past, especially during the Dotcom boom. But things have gone awry since then thanks to a form of complacency on part of the government and the current infrastructure seems lacking, especially in coping with the massive increase in Internet consumption. “My guess would be that having been satisfied with the great success of IT, the Indian government and the leadership made the same mistake companies do. They rested on their own laurels. They said, ‘Business is really good’ without understanding how quickly technology changes.”
Schmidt also touched on an age-old problem of bandwidth in India. “India’s connectivity to the net has always weak. There are insufficient undersea cables to handle the bandwidth, fiber optic cables are proprietary instead of public and infrastructure didn’t get enough attention,” said Schmidt while also warning that the Internet revolution could bypass the country, if certain measures aren’t taken.
However, Schmidt was quick to point out that his interactions with a number of people have lead him to believe that there is no lack of commitment to changing the status quo. He even went on to say that the crucial fibre optic networks and high-speed mobile connectivity in India could see a growth spurt within the next year.
Yesterday, the former member of Apple’s board of directors was insistent that a $50 (roughly Rs 2,700) smartphone, which can hook up to high-speed Internet, was not far away. If such a phone does see the light of day in India, the share of mobile-based Internet usage will certainly rise meteorically from the current 25 percent, which is well over the global figure of 15 percent.
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