Mark Zuckerberg To Visit Indian Prime Minister To Address Barriers To Internet Access

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, is heading to India next week to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other members of government, according to USA Today. The purpose of the meetings is to help drive greater internet access in India.

The trip also includes Zuckerberg’s keynote at an summit. The organization, of which Facebook is a founding partner, works to promote internet access in developing countries. Other companies involved with include cell phone and mobile technology creators Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung.

Internet access is challenging in places like India that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, have a significant rural population and limited 3G networks. Forty-five percent of the country’s rural residents have no electricity. However, the number of internet users in India grew by 22 percent between 2012 and 2013.

According to a press release on the site, Zuckerberg’s keynote will address “barriers to internet access,” and his meeting with Modi is to “collaborate on ways to accelerate connectivity in India.”

Zuckerberg’s Facebook is one of the globe’s leading social networks, but its use in India is quite small compared to other parts of the world. A Pew Research Center study, published on the eve of Facebook’s 10th anniversary in February 2014, found that the site is used by 57 percent of American adults. Of those who do not use Facebook but do use the internet, 52 percent live with someone who is on the social media site.

In India, just over half of the country’s 200 million internet users are on Facebook. The country’s total population is 1.2 billion. Despite the fact that internet usage overall is only about 15 percent in India, Prime Minister Modi used social media extensively in his recent campaign.

Despite these challenges, Facebook and other technology companies are looking to India to increase their client bases. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also visited India earlier this summer and met with Prime Minister Modi. India is Facebook’s second-largest market.

According to USA Today, many of India’s internet users get access through mobile devices. Zuckerberg is the latest technology giant to make an appearance there, with bosses from Amazon and Microsoft also making the trip in recent days. Noting the preponderance of mobile in the market, a representative from Google, Sundar Pichai, was in India last month to promote the company’s new low-cost smartphones.

Bloomberg reported in September that Google’s smartphone was priced at approximately U.S. $105, and came on the heels of a U.S. $33 phone introduced by Mozilla. The report highlighted the importance of mobile in the Indian market. Specifically, 76 percent of India’s 243 million internet users access the world wide web through smartphones.

[Mark Zuckerberg Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]