Schmidt begins India tour, advocates 'open' Internet

Eric Schmidt has joined free speech advocates who have been critical of India's efforts to control and monitor the Internet. Google's executive chairman is in India to speak at The Guardian's Big Tent Activate India event in New Delhi on March 21.

Published Date
20 - Mar - 2013
| Last Updated
20 - Mar - 2013
Schmidt begins India tour, advocates 'open' Internet

Google Inc.'s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who recently kicked off his mini-Asia tour, has called upon the Indian government to stop making efforts to control the Internet, and instead focus on ensuring that technology helps the common masses and local businesses.

In an article published by Times of India, Eric Schmidt says, “Now is the moment for India to decide what kind of internet it wants for them: an open internet that benefits all or a highly regulated one that inhibits innovation.”

“The past 10 years show that the safest economic, social and political bet is on openness. Where there is a free and open Web, where there is unbridled technological progress, where information can be disseminated and consumed freely, society flourishes.”

Schmidt, however, lauded the recent efforts by the Indian government to use technology for reaching out to the common masses. “Just the past two weeks in India show that it enriches politics and the national debate. Finance minister P Chidambaram's online hangout to discuss the budget and the Planning Commission's interactive chat on India's 12th five-year Plan showed how the internet can drive serious, mature conversations over a distance that has never been possible before,” he noted.

Schmidt's observations comes in the wake of recent developments that raised concerns over the freedom of the Internet in the country. Back in 2011, the government irked free speech advocates by passing a law that allowed authorities to hold Internet companies responsible for “offensive” material posted by users. Parts of the law have been challenged in the Supreme Court, which is yet to reach a conclusion.

India's Union minister Kapil Sibal had asked the Internet companies such as Google and Facebook to come up with a monitoring mechanism to screen the derogatory material from their websites. Though the minister declined the government was trying to censor the Internet.

Besides the web censorship issue, Schmidt also stressed on encouraging the local businesses.

“The most striking Indian internet innovations won’t come from big institutions or companies moving online, however. They will come from Indians solving local problems. We know that India’s internet infrastructure allows Indian engineers to solve the problems of small businesses in other countries. If India plays its cards right, we’ll soon see Indian engineers and Indian small businesses tackling Indian problems first, then exporting the solutions that work best,” he wrote.

Google's Schmidt is scheduled to visit various Asian countries, and is already in India as he is supposed to deliver a speech at The Guardian’s Big Tent Activate India event in New Delhi on March 21.

Source: Times of India, WSJ