Cyber Security

After banning China apps, India gets Google to invest $10-billion in info-tech plan

Photo: Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Google chief Sundar Pitchai during a video chat today.

By Amit Agnihotri

New Delhi: Global info-tech giant Googlee Inc‘s announcement today it will invest $10 billion in India has come as a major booster to the South Asian country locked in a bitter border face-off with China that also resulted in the ban on 59 Chinese-origin mobile applications.

The stand-off since May has not only cast a dark shadow over the Sino-Indian relations, it also made the world sit up and take note of how India responded firmly to the expansionist designs of the Asian giant, which fancies itself as a global superpower but shows scant regards for human rights and little concern for its neighbours.

Google’s announcement is significant when seen in the context of India’s tough move to ban the Chinese apps on June 29 citing data privacy and national security concerns. As a reaction to the Narendra Modi government’s ban, Chinese Communist Party government claimed that the move violated World Trade Organisation rules.

India reminded China that the South Asian nation was already the largest digital space market with over 680 million subscribers and that several large Information Technology (IT) companies were operating here and following the domestic data security laws, as they found it much easier to function in an open economy and a democratic system as compared to the People’s Republic of China‘s iron fist and opaque rules.

One of the major Chinese apps TikTok is set to lose huge revenues worth Rs 45,000 cr as a result of the ban and its parent company ByteDance is even contemplating relocating its headquarters outside China to delineate the company from the Chinese government, whose aggression in the South China Sea and Ladakh has angered the United States and India alike. Significantly, the US, home to Google and several other large IT companies, has welcomed India’s move to ban Chinese apps and was even contemplating a similar action to tame the Asian giant.

The move to ban Chinese apps also indicated India was projecting its IT skills power and could hurt the Chinese economy while still flexing its military muscle at the Line of Actual Control, where the armies of the two countries are in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in eastern Ladakh. Since July 6, the two nations’ armies have begun to implement measures to maintain peace, as the Indian armed forces remained committed to secure the country’s borders.

Google’s plan to invest majorly in India is further expected to boost the country’s projection of being an open world economy, where increasing number of people are adopting new technologies.

“Today, I’m excited to announce the Google for India Digitization Fund. Through this effort, we will invest Rs 75,000 crore, or approximately $10 billion, into India over the next five to seven years. We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Sunder Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google and Alphabet, said shortly after he interacted with the Indian prime minister through video conference.

The prime minister discussed the issue of data security and concerns around privacy with Pichai pointing out that technology companies need to put in efforts to bridge the trust deficit. He also talked about cyber crimes and threats in the form of cyber attacks. Recently, there were reports that massive cyber attacks could originate from China targeting key networks in India.

Other areas of discussion between Modi and Pichai included technological solutions to expand the scope of online education, access to technology in native languages, use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) to give a stadium-like viewing experience in the field of sports, and progress in the area of digital payments. During the interaction, the prime minister explored the idea of virtual labs that can be used by students as well as farmers.

Google set its footprint in India in 2004 with two research centres at Bengaluru and Hyderabad and has expanded its portfolio significantly since then.

Pichai told Modi about new products and initiatives by Google in India and mentioned about the launch of an Artificial Intelligence Research Lab in Bengaluru, while highlighting the benefits of Google’s flood forecasting efforts.

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