Remarks for Youth Outreach in New Delhi

Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
New Delhi American Center
New Delhi, India
September 28, 2016

As prepared

Good afternoon and welcome. I look forward to engaging you in a conversation about your aspirations for the future of the Internet, the role that India will play in the development of the platform, and how you think a digitally connected world could evolve.

For the past three and-a-half years I have had the privilege to serve as a United States Ambassador traveling the world to promote the cause of the global Internet and ensure it remains open, interoperable, secure and reliable in my country -- in your country -- and every country in between. There are nations on the other side of that debate. There are nations that want the Internet to operate as a series of national intranets, where services and the ability to innovate are limited and controlled, and simultaneously deemed a threat, by the government, as is the ability to use the Internet to organize and challenge concentrated power and authority.

There are a few critical countries in that conversation and one of them is India. You should know that your representatives have engaged these deliberations passionately and with intense preparation. We do not always agree but we always collaborate and we always do our best to reach a mutually agreeable compromise. And over time, our positions have become much more aligned.

We work to preserve the Internet as a global platform for economic and social development for people like you – the generation who will next build the Internet into something we can’t even imagine today, using it to enrich your lives and make the world a better place.

And you are already doing that. Indian university students have a proven track record of becoming entrepreneurs, besting some of the very best schools in the United States in this regard. A recent study conducted by venture capital research firm PitchBook ranked the Indian Institute of Technology fourth in a new ranking of the top 50 universities that have produced venture capital-backed founders. The report showed IIT produced 264 entrepreneurs, who founded 205 companies and cumulatively raised $3.15 billion in capital. IIT has produced start-ups that are now leading e-commerce companies including Flipkart and Smartdeal.

Not only are your universities turning out entrepreneurs, but so are your high schools. I had to come to India to learn the term “schoolprenuers,” the 10th and 11th graders who are becoming CEOs of their own start-ups and monetizing their apps. I was inspired to read in Entrepreneur India about Arjun Santhosh Kumar, who by the time he was 15 years old was founder and CEO of LateraLogics, a technology company that focuses on custom apps development, web development and consulting. At 13, he developed two award-winning apps, Ez School Bus Locator and iSafeGuard, both apps related to keeping children and women safe.

Start-up India, launched by Prime Minister Modi last January, recognizes this potential, too. If you aren’t familiar with the initiative, I encourage you to look into it. There are many things the program gets right including reduced regulatory burdens, fast tracking patents and tax exemptions on capital gains.

There’s no question the Internet and the broader digital economy open new opportunities for you as you think about jobs or starting your own business and becoming an app developer or content creator. With data flowing freely across borders your own business can reach new markets or source materials far outside your domestic boundaries. This is a growing phenomenon happening throughout the world as evidenced by a 2016 McKinsey Global study that found that 86% of start-ups conduct at least one business function across borders. India benefits from this, too. For example, U.S. small and medium size businesses now import $28 billion worth of goods from India each year to support their entrepreneurial efforts.

And starting up a business is becoming increasingly more affordable and easier as cloud services provide a ready-made IT infrastructure. Indian small businesses have already discovered this. India leads the pack in worldwide adoption rates of cloud services at 32% followed by Brazil at 29%, China at 22% and the UK at 18% according to a study conducted by SAP and IDC.

I predict the next wave of development will come from India and it will come from people in this room. Just as you can benefit from the evolving digital landscape, you can also shape it.

Here are three things you can do:

One. Lead -- take risks and invest in each other. Build applications that serve the unique needs of the people in your communities and your nation. There’s a large underserved market of women and the disabled who are being left behind because of a lack of appealing content or apps that serve their unique needs. According to a study conducted by Google last year, women formed only a third of the online population in India and half of the country’s women didn’t see any benefit to having Internet access. Another opportunity in India is in providing content in local languages. According to a Freedom House report, only 12% of the global population speaks English, yet more than half the content is available in English. And work with your government, industry, and civil society to be a voice for preserving and protecting the open, global and interoperable Internet. Find a need and fill it.

Two. Participate. The Internet community is ready for your involvement. The current model of Internet governance, where all the stakeholders participate openly in the conversation, will only thrive if the next generation of technologists, users and creators participate in the process. I encourage you to explore the various facets of Internet governance and find where you can lend your expertise. Go to the ICANN57 conference in Hyderabad this November, explore the committees of the Internet Engineering Task Force and get involved in the regional Asia Pacific Internet Governance Forum.

Three. Advocate. It will fall to the users and entrepreneurs of the future to ensure the digital divide is narrowed, connectivity greatly expanded, and adverse policies that will slow down the Internet and the digital economy’s development don’t come to fruition. As a policy maker, I can tell you these are complex issues and it’s very difficult to find the right balance between control and openness, but there are certain foundational issues we must get right if we are to see the digital economy flourish. We must protect the free flow of data across borders, without imposing limits on the type of data or where the data is stored and processed. At the same time, we must build trust and confidence that our personal data is being protected no matter where in the world it happens to be. We must safeguard cyberspace, deploying a risk-based approach to managing digital resources where the safeguards are commensurate with the risk. We must be vigilant in upholding free expression and safeguard against government imposed efforts to block websites. We must find ways to cooperate among governments to ensure consumer protections, privacy and freedom of expression. And we must respect intellectual property rights and ensure adequate enforcement. And we have to do it with you. We need your guidance, your opinions, your critiques, and your support. If we don’t get this right you won’t be able to make money from all that great content and all those new apps you’re going to create.

I’ve given you a lot of recommendations here. I hope these ideas will help inspire you. I hope that you will heed my call and join me in my work to ensure the Internet’s bright future and a robust digital economy that will bring economic growth and untold societal benefits. Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you on this exciting future.