'To see India’s leader (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) hobnobbing with Silicon Valley's tech czars and making an impression on them and selling the Digital India story to them is super cool for me. I really hope this drives a lot more investments into India in the tech space but also drives more innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.'
Ankit Fadia, a Stanford grad and author of over 15 books on computers, ethical hacking and cyber security, has been appointed by the ministry of information technology as one of brand ambassadors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme.
Fadia spoke to Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about his roles and responsibilities as brand ambassador and shares his impressions about the prime minister’s visit to Silicon Valley.
What will be your role and responsibilities as one of the brand ambassadors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme?
The idea is to support the initiative and to promote all the components of the Digital India programme through social media, through real-life events and of course, at any point, if there are any technical inputs that need to be provided then I would play a role in it.
Have you made any plans as to how you will go about promoting the Digital India programme?
Basically, it is driven by the information technology ministry. Whenever they organise an event I would be a part of it; I would obviously try and use my network on social media to promote it; the government will use its own mechanism and systems for the outreach of the Digital India programme.
Have you been assigned any specific roles or tasks as part of this appointment?
Not specifically, yet. But that is going to happen shortly.
Your appointment letter is dated July 1, 2015. Any reason why you chose to make it public only now?
To be honest, I wanted to maintain a low profile about it. But as one of the mandates of this appointment is the promotion of the Digital India programme and the timing is perfect because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley which is why I thought it would be a good time to announce my appointment.
Could you share your impressions of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley and the impact it could possibly have on the tech czars there?
My first impression is that suddenly the entire world is talking about India and ‘Digital’ India, which none of the previous leaders of India had been able to achieve on this scale. By visiting some of the biggest and most innovative tech companies in the world, Prime Minister Modi has sent a great message that India means business when it comes to spreading digitisation.
Finally, we have a leader who is talking about start-ups and hackathons, something unheard of before. I think this visit is going to hugely inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, college students and young techies in India to dream big, innovate and come up with exciting start-ups.
One of the big problems with India has been that although we have been a big outsourcing hub, we have never been a centre of tech innovation.
Hopefully, our prime minister’s visit to the Silicon Valley will help initiate such dialogue and communication among India’s young techies and start-ups.
Within the country, if you look at the common man and his access to basic digital connectivity or services, especially when it comes to the public sector, is a necessity and through Digital India programme, that will become a reality and that too very quickly now.
What do you think is the biggest takeaway for India from Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley?
I actually studied at Stanford University and every day we used to hear about all these start-ups and visionaries like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page. In fact, Larry and Sergei were both from Stanford. As I have spent a lot of my time in the Silicon Valley set-up, these are all role models and sources of inspiration for me.
And to see India’s leader hobnobbing with them and making an impression on them and selling the Digital India story to them is super cool for me. I really hope this not only drives lot more investments into India in the tech space but also more innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
What did you study at Stanford University?
I did my bachelor’s degree in management science and engineering. This is a mix of business and engineering curriculum. I specialised in technology organisation and entrepreneurship.
The funny thing is I dropped out in my senior year with only six months left for graduation. I was originally supposed to graduate in 2007, but I dropped out and came back to India and started courses on computer security and wrote books.
But then I went back again in 2014 and finally graduated and one of my childhood idols, Bill gates, gave the graduation speech which for me was a dream come true. It kind of all worked out well for me.
As one of the brand ambassadors of the Digital India programme, what will be your plan of action to spread the message of digitisation?
Whenever there is some important message that is shareable on social media I will do it as part of the first mandate of being a brand ambassador.
Through whatever I can say, I have been writing books on computer security for quite a while, but now my plan is to help people use technology more smartly.
There is a series of books I am writing on the theme ‘Stretch Your Technology’.
This book will help smartphone users leverage technology to make their lives better. That will be one way in which I will help make India digital and more tech savvy. This series will help bring simple tech tricks to the masses.
Photograph Courtesy: Ankit Fadia/Instagram