India celebrates its 67th Republic Day!

India celebrated its 67th Republic day on 26th January in full glory of colors. In the US, Indian Americans rejoiced the unfurling of tricolour at the Indian Embassy in the American capital. Republic Day celebrations were marked in several Indian diplomatic missions in New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco and the Permanent Mission of India to the UN.

  • 67th Republic Day-2016
    Getting the Indian flag painted faces is a common sight on the eve of Republic day

Which is your favorite R-day picture? Share it with me.

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Will it be Google Balloons or Facebook Drones that will bring Internet to India?

Google Balloons or Facebook Drones for Internet to India

Google Balloons or Facebook drones?: The internet age is all ready to dawn upon over 4 Billion unconnected people around the world. Who will it be who reigns the skies first?

If giant blurs of balloons and drones popping out of the sky seem to liken a scene straight out of the latest Star War movie then the awakening force here is most likely  the internet technology as envisioned by some at Google and Facebook. The goal is simple and easily fathomable in India – Google’s Project Loon will launch balloons in the sky to help reach out rural and unconnected areas!

As much as it sounds like a liberating idea to connect people without internet connectivity, Project Loon’s idea of delivering wireless internet services to world’s remote regions faces some hurdles in India.  After signing deals in Sri Lanka and China, Loon needs to look up some regulatory setbacks in the country first, as indicated by comments from India’s top telecom government officials.

All the balloons under Project Loon will float in the stratosphere, approximately 20 km above the Earth’s surface. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the earth’s stratosphere (defined as the layer of  earth’s atmosphere above the troposphere that extends to about 50 km above the earth’s surface (the lower boundary of the mesosphere)) at a height of over 18 km to establish a wireless network claiming to have up to 4G-LTE (4G is mobile communication standards which will enable users of the LTE network to use data speeds that are up to 10 times faster than the present day 3G network) speeds.

What these balloons will essentially do is provide Internet to people by partnering with telecommunication companies by sharing their cellular spectrum, which will allow people to connect to the balloon network using their phones and LTE-enabled devices like mobile phones etc..

Google also has some cool projects on board such as the Railwire which is a mega project to equip 500 railway stations across India  using a Wi-Fi network. Coming back to Loon balloons—how will these Internet balloons help rural India? Sundar Pichai says that Google plans to reach 300,000 villages, or about 50% of the total villages in India.

On the other hand, Facebook is planning to start testing its drones in the US with India and 21 other countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America to follow. These drones are likely to stay in the sky delivering Internet to the world beneath, and it is speculated that these drones will be roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, similar to 747″. Sounds like easy access to Internet technology headed the world’s way at a very low price!

While both Facebook and Google are battling it out to become the first company to bring Internet connectivity to remote locations in the world, the larger picture  is likely to work for masses who are to benefit from free / low priced internet access.

In this context, I wonder if India is gearing up to utilize this opportunity and alleviate rural folks by initiating programs that will support technology, education and awareness?

Share your thoughts with me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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Highlights 2015: The year as it passed by..

This photo-journey marks some of the important developments that took place in 2015. Here is a photo-album highlighting the US-India partnership going strong in 2015.

  • President Obama during his India visit in January 2015: Obama and Modi say they have achieved a breakthrough understanding to free up U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India
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Is the air in China costing lives? How about Delhi? Ask VitalityAir!

Pollution facts China and India - Sanjay Puri's Blog

In the picture: Cities of Beijing (left), Delhi ( center and NY (right): All facing high levels of air pollution causing serious health hazards to its people. VitalityAir (a company based in Canada) is providing canned air to Beijing. Is Delhi next?

What started as a joke or hoax might be a solution to air pollution in uber cities of the world. There once went a saying which held true for most things still—good things come for free—Linux, Air and Water? Water bills in India are no fancy stuff anymore (just like in the West) and water is a commodity made payable for its citizens (atleast in the cities). It looks like fresh air will soon become an essential commodity for vital fresh breaths, especially in smog-stricken cities like Beijing, Karachi, Khorramabad, Doha, Idgir, New Delhi, New York etc.

The idea of VitalityAir founded by Moses Lam and Troy Paquette as a gag on e-bay, more than a year ago, seems to now be selling like hot cakes in China (starting less than two months back). How many fresh inhalations does one need to kick his/her lungs? With alarming levels of air pollution in Beijing, which is expected to reach coastal cities like Tianjin, Chinese citizens are worried (and rightly so) about the ever increasing levels of pollution in their country. Red alerts are also an indication of future problems arising from bad air quality.

Air pollution is one of the top ten health risks faced by humans globally. According to co-founder Moses Lam, Vitality Air has seen sales in China soar with the first shipment of 500 bottles of fresh air sold in four days, and a crate containing 4,000 bottles recently being shipped to China. What exactly is this air? According to the company’s site, these are fresh air bottles coming from uninhabited areas in the Rocky Mountains of Canada! The air is compressed and filled into cans and then sealed. The aluminium bottles, they claim do not include any propellants and come with a mask so that one can breathe in the air without any waste.

Back in India, the capital city of Delhi is high on the list (it has been in news lately) of polluted world cities list along with others urban cities around the world facing high levels of air pollution. The question is “Will India find its own canned fresh Himalayan air to localize or will it use VitalityNext?”

Do you think smart-cars, car-pooling, odd-even number cars (much in debate in the capital) or simply increasing the efficiency of public transport will work for reducing Delhi’s air pollution levels? What are other ways to control air contamination? Will Delhi buy fresh air to survive? How about those who can’t buy air?

How about exporting some fresh Himalayan air (like Himalayan Pink salt/Rock salt) to the world’s most polluted cities?

Share your thoughts with me.

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