Earlier this week, venture capitalist Mark Andreessen tweeted, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now.” I’m sure he didn’t mean it as bad as it sounded. But this is a heavily connected and very PC world we’re in. The firestorm was fast and furious.
Since then, Andreessen has apologized and deleted the tweet. But criticism from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and India’s business leaders came in a hurry. Andreessen is a Facebook board member. Andresseen expressed frustration over free but limited mobile Internet access being banned in India. Some lawmakers in India fear Facebook’s major influence. But Andreessen quickly took the comments back, saying he is a huge admirer of India and the Indian people. Zuckerberg called the original tweet ‘deeply upsetting’. But Zuckerberg did say we need to understand India’s past. Hopefully, the apology is accepted and the business relationship between Facebook and India can move on. But the issue of Free Basics will not go away anytime soon. He still criticizes India’s government for the ban on Free Basics, saying, “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.” Zuckerberg praises India for the progress they made.
If you want to say Andreessen’s wording of his frustration was wrong, it was. But he does have a point. Zuckerberg is right too. India has made tremendous economical, social and technological progress in recent decades. It’s home to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It’s becoming one of the most respected nations in the world. That’s why it bothers me that lawmakers there hate Free Basics. If you’re going to continue to compete in the 21st century world, you need the Internet. The more people who have access to the Internet, the better, even if it’s free. I hope Facebook officials can convince India’s government to reconsider their ban on Free Basics. What’s the real reason they’re hating on free online access?
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