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Narendra Modi Meets Silicon Valley Luminaries, Promises to Light Up India With the Internet

Commencing the West Coast leg of his latest U.S. tour, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the U.S.-India partnership in Internet technology and said he’d continue working to connect Indian schools, villages and offices with broadband.

At a “Digital India” dinner in San Jose on Saturday, Mr. Modi was joined onstage by an elite clutch of Silicon Valley luminaries, several of them Indian-Americans: Sundar Pichai of Google Inc., Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp., Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems Inc., John Chambers of Cisco Systems Inc. and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm Inc.

The prime minister highlighted how mobile phones have already transformed the way ordinary Indians communicate and work, and vowed to continue digitizing government services such as business clearances. He said the government will partner with Google to provide free Wi-Fi in 500 Indian railway stations.

“For nothing else will do in a country with 800 million youth under the age of 35 years, impatient for change and eager to achieve it,” Mr. Modi said.

As part of efforts to connect more rural Indians to the Internet, Mr. Modi has dialed up plans to lay hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable. But the prime minister’s ambitions have run up against certain hard realities: With land rights in the domain of myriad local and federal bodies, and some vital materials in short supply, cable installation has remained woefully behind schedule.

Here’s Mr. Modi’s speech in full, as prepared by India’s Foreign Ministry:

I am sure this was not pre-arranged. But, here on stage you see a perfect picture of India-U.S. partnership in the digital economy.

Good Evening, everyone!

If there was ever a gathering under one roof that could claim to be shaping the world, it is this.

And, I am not talking about those in public office, here or in India!

It’s a great pleasure to be here in California.

It is one of the last places in the world to see the sun set. But, it is here that new ideas see the first light of the day.

It’s a great honour that you have joined us tonight.

I have met many of you in Delhi and New York, and on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

These are the new neighborhoods of our new world.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one and the most connected.

Google today has made teachers less awe-inspiring and grandparents more idle.

Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter.

The traffic lights that need to work the best are on CISCO routers.

The status that now matters is not whether you are awake or asleep, but whether you are online or offline. The most fundamental debate for our youth is the choice between Android, iOS or Windows.

From computing to communication, entertainment to education, from printing documents to printing products, and, now to internet of things, it’s been a long journey in a short time.

From cleaner energy to better healthcare and safer transport, everything is converging around the work you do.

In Africa, it’s helping people transfer money on phone. It has made reaching small island states no longer a journey of adventure, but a convenient click of a mouse.

In India, a mother in a distant hill village has a better chance to save her new born infant. A child in a remote village has better access to education.

A small farmer is more confident about his land holding and getting better market price. A fisherman on the sea has a better catch. And, a young professional in San Francisco can Skype daily to comfort her sick grandmother in India.

An initiative by a father in Haryana for “Selfie with daughter” to draw attention to the girl child became an international movement.

All this is...