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Modi wraps up US visit with love fest in America

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source: ndtv

Washington: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up yet another hugely successful visit to the US with a warm hug for President Barack Obama, a courtship with Silicon valley and a love fest with the Indian diaspora.

As Obama said after an hour-long meeting in New York on Monday with “good friend” Modi, building on his “wonderful visit” to Delhi in January, “We’ve elevated our ties. We’ve committed ourselves to a new partnership between our two countries.”

Modi agreed they had “achieved significant progress in our bilateral cooperation and international partnership” and welcomed “the progress in giving shape to our joint strategic vision on Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region”.

As anticipated, Obama chose to focus on climate issues. India’s leadership at the Paris climate change conference in December, he believed, “will set the tone not just for today but for decades to come”.

Obama said he was encouraged by “the aggressive nature” of Modi’s commitment to clean energy.

Modi said he and Obama “share an uncompromising commitment on climate change without affecting our ability to meet the development aspirations of humanity”.

But Modi also made it clear to Obama, French British Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, whom he met separately, that a negative approach of capping emissions or adding restrictions was not going to help. Instead a positive approach that includes help for developing countries like financing and technology transfer was needed, he said.

Modi also won renewed support from the big three for India getting a permanent seat in the Security Council and asked them to have the UN reform process completed within a “fixed time frame”.

Modi said after meeting with Obama “we have resolved to further deepen cooperation on counter-terrorism and radicalism”.

source: blogs.wsj.com
source: blogs.wsj.com

But beyond the power meetings with Obama and other world leaders, the real measure of Modi’s success was writ in his wooing the big business and winning over the tech titans of Silicon Valley.

From Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai, Indian-American chief executives of Microsoft and Google to Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg everyone seemed keen to get behind Modi’s digital dream.

If Pichai offered to bring wireless Internet or WiFi to 500 railway stations across India, Nadella outlined Microsoft’s plan to help Indian government take low-cost broadband to half a million villages.

Qualcomm promised a 10 billion rupee fund for startups in India “to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy”.

It will also set up a number of ‘design houses’ for product innovation in India.

And selling his dream of turning India’s $8 trillion economy into a $20 trillion economy at the Facebook Townhall with a promise of four D’s — demography, democracy, demand and now de-regulation — he told investors: “Want to Invest? I Have an Address – India.”

source: indianexpress

But it was the rock star like reception he received in Silicon valley reminiscent of the ‘Madison Square Garden moment’ on the eve of his summit with Obama last year that wowed them all.

Modi “wooed and wowed the tech crowd” and “conquered” Silicon Valley, as the influential New York Times put it.

Modi’s trip, said the Washington Post, had made Silicon Valley “a must-see destination for world leaders” and “signals the rising influence and economic power wielded by this technology hotbed.”

(By Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Silicon Valley A Punching Bag For Presidential Hopefuls

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money

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Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. VOA

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money and, with a tech company campus as a backdrop, talk about innovation and the future. But, it has now become a punching bag for them.

But this year, things are different.

The 2020 presidential candidates are contending with the so-called “tech-lash,” the populist backlash against “Big Tech” over a host of issues, including data leaks, wealth accumulation, alleged erosion of worker rights, claims of censorship of conservative voices and concerns about the proliferation of extreme speech online.

Some political hopefuls are part of the tech-lash.

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making… VOA

Recently, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined protesters outside Uber’s headquarters arguing for a new California bill that would make contract workers, like Uber drivers, employees. Other candidates, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, have also come out for the legislative measure.

Sanders has attacked technological innovations for upending local journalism and for what he calls biased policing, such as facial recognition technology. Warren says she would like to break up some of the tech giants.

“The area around these giants is referred to by venture capitalists investors as the ‘dead zone,’” Warren said during a CNN event. “You try to start up a business, you run the risk that Amazon steps in front of you or Google steps in front of you or buys you out before you get started.”

California senator

As California’s attorney general, Harris raised the issue of the lack of privacy policies on apps. So far, she has not made the tech industry a big issue in her national campaign.

But that may change.

When asked about the growth of companies such as Facebook, Harris told CNN, “There is no question in my mind that there needs to be serious regulation. … There needs to be more oversight; that has not been happening.”

Trump and Silicon Valley

President Donald Trump has led the way in puncturing tech’s one-time white hat image, hitting the industry hard on a range of issues, including allegedly censoring conservative voices online. He recently falsely claimed that Google manipulated votes.

But some candidates don’t want to mimic Trump’s style of conflict when it comes to tech.

When asked about the idea of breaking up Facebook, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “That sounds more like a Donald Trump kind of thing.”

He added, “We do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we should break up. … We need a president that’s going to enforce antitrust laws in this country, and I will be that person.”

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making their… VOA

Big tech — good or bad for America?

All this negative attention puts the tech industry in a bind, unsure which potential presidential hopeful might be an ally, said Lanhee Chen, who was head of policy for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

“Certainly there are still people who believe in the value of technology companies, who understand tech as an important industry, an important contributor to the economy,” Chen said. “But increasingly I think people’s views have become more nuanced. And unfortunately, for the technology companies, in many cases, more negative.”

There’s a danger, however, in attacking tech, said Donnie Fowler, a longtime Democratic consultant and now an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.

“The Democratic presidential candidates can’t come to Silicon Valley and attack technology and innovation broadly,” Fowler said. “You can’t come here and say that everything Silicon Valley is doing is bad for the country, bad for the economy, bad for Americans. Americans don’t even believe that.”

Tech CEO, employee divide

Campaign contributions offer a snapshot of the candidates and their relationship to the tech industry.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions from workers at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, or the organizations’ political action committee, were the highest contributors to Buttigieg and Warren.

In contrast, tech executives have given to Democrat moderates such as Booker and former Vice President and Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, both of whom have not made tech much of an issue, according to CNBC.

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YouTube recommendation algorithm

Max Kaehn, a Google software engineer, who has donated to Warren and other candidates, said he welcomes politicians who criticize his employer and other tech giants.

“With great power comes great responsibility and the tech companies have great power. We should get some scrutiny over it,” he said.

Some areas to look at, Kaehn said, is Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, Facebook’s use of data and YouTube, which is owned by his employer, Alphabet.

“I think we should be talking about the YouTube recommendation algorithm,” he said.

While YouTube’s algorithm hasn’t come up in the Democratic presidential debates, observers say issues like these, once seen as esoteric or niche, may become front and center, reflecting the country’s ambivalence about the growing role of technology in their lives. (VOA)