Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the United States right now, promoting, amongst other things, the Digital India initiative, and encouraging Silicon Valley bigwigs to invest in India. There were a flurry of big announcements over the weekend, from Google's plans to provide 'free' Wi-Fi at railway stations, to Microsoft's announcement that it is opening data centres in India. But are these announcements truly new or have existing initiatives merely been repackaged by companies for the Prime Minister's visit? Let's take a look.
1) Announcement: Google to provide free Wi-Fi at 400 train stations
Reality: It has been announced that Google will provide free Wi-Fi at 500 stations across India, but the official Google announcement pegs the number at 400. Further, Google notes will be "free to start, with the long-term goal of making it self-sustainable" - in other words, not exactly free.
Digging a little deeper, you can find old reports that indicate this is something that Google has been working on for while, so whether this is a direct result of PM Modi's visit to US, or something that was always in the pipeline, is debatable.
2) Announcement: Qualcomm's $150 million fund for Indian startups
Reality: Qualcomm announced a $150 million fund for startups in China last year, and while Qualcomm Ventures has invested in India before, the move to setup a dedicated fund for Indian startups, is indeed a new and welcome move.
3) Announcement: Microsoft wants to provide low-cost Internet to 5 lakh villages
Reality: Last month, Microsoft tied up with the Andhra Pradesh government to implement a pilot project to deliver low-cost Internet connectivity under its TV White Spaces Project by utilising unused TV spectrum. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has indicated that the company wants to bring the same technology to 5 lakh Indian villages. There's nothing in the announcement to suggest Microsoft is doing this for free, and it will expect to be compensated by the government. Additionally, no specifics related to the project were shared, which, if anything, is an indicator this is something that might have been hurriedly put together to announce something big for PM Modi's visit.
4) Announcement: Microsoft to open data centres in India next week
Reality: Surely everyone understands that this isn't a direct result of PM Modi's visit. Opening data centres is an elaborate process, and this has been in the pipeline for a while now. It's possible that Nadella mentioned the data centres are finally going to become operational, and the statement took a life of its own. Definitely not new(s).