in partnership with New America

How the Smartphone is Transforming the World’s Largest Democracy -

With Foreign Policy managing editor Ravi Agrawal’s new book “India Connected”


In India Connected: How the Smartphone is Transforming the World’s Largest Democracy, Foreign Policy managing editor and former CNN South Asia bureau chief Ravi Agrawal takes readers on a journey across India, through remote rural villages and massive metropolises, to highlight how one tiny device—the smartphone—is creating staggering changes across all facets of life. The rise of smartphones, and with them access to the internet, has caused nothing short of a revolution in India. Don't miss the chance to hear about a revolutionary book from one of today's most influential minds!

More about India Connected

In the West, technological advances have progressed step-by step—from landline phones, to dial-up connections on PCs, to broadband access, wireless, and now 4G data on phones. But the vast majority of Indians, particularly low income and rural citizens, have leap-frogged straight to the smartphone era, disrupting centuries of tradition and barriers of wealth, language, literacy, caste, and gender. The numbers are staggering: in 2000, 20 million Indians had access to the internet; by 2017, 465 million were online, with three Indians discovering the internet every second, mostly on smartphones. India Connected shows how widespread internet use is poised to transform everyday life in India, including the status of women, education, jobs, dating, family life, commerce, and governance. Just as the car shaped 20th century America, the smartphone is set to shape 21st century India.

The rise of low-cost smartphones and cheap data plans led the country to skip baby steps their Western counterparts took toward digital fluency. The results can be felt in every sphere of life, upending traditions and customs and challenging conventions. Nothing is untouched, from arranged marriages to social status to business start-ups, as smartphones move the entire economy from cash-based to credit-based. Access to the internet is affecting the progress of progress itself. As Agrawal shows, while they offer immediate and sometimes mind-altering access to so much for so many, smartphones create no immediate utopia in a culture still driven by poverty, a caste system, gender inequality, illiteracy, and income disparity. Internet access has provided greater opportunities to women and changed the way in which India's many illiterate poor can interact with the world, but it has also meant that pornography has become more readily available, and fake news more widespread.

Under a government keen to control content, it has created tensions. And in a climate of nationalism, it has fomented violence and even terrorism. The influence of smartphones on "the world's largest democracy" is nonetheless pervasive and irreversible, and India Connected reveals both its dimensions and its implications.

About Ravi Agrawal
Ravi Agrawa is an award-winning journalist and media executive. He is the Managing Editor of Foreign Policy, the world’s leading website and print magazine on international relations. Before joining Foreign Policy in 2018, Agrawal worked at CNN for more than 11 years, spanning full-time roles on three continents. His most recent position at CNN was as New Delhi bureau chief and correspondent. In that role, Agrawal led the network’s coverage of news from South Asia and traveled across the region to report on-air and for CNN.com. Before his time in New Delhi, Agrawal worked as a senior producer in CNN’s London and New York bureaus, covering a wide range of stories around the globe. His work in TV news has been recognized with a Peabody Award and three Emmy nominations. Agrawal has been named a Young Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, and an Asia21 Young Leader by the Asia Society in New York. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. Agrawal was born in London, England, and grew up in Kolkata, India. Follow him on Twitter @RaviReports

Advance Praise for India Connected by Ravi Agrawal:

“This is, quite simply, the best book about India today. It recounts the hard data but also captures the mood of a rising, sprawling, dynamic society. It is centered on the smartphone, which is indeed transforming the world’s largest democracy. But the nature of that transformation is complex and nuanced. And Agrawal describes this reality with a novelist’s eye and pen. A triumph.”
—Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and author of The Post American World

"India Connected is a fascinating—and very well-written—account of the ways in which the smartphone is transforming every aspect of Indian life, from marriage to politics, and not always for the better. It is a remarkable work of non-fiction ... a must-read for everyone who is interested in contemporary India."
—Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement and Sea of Poppies

“The story of how India has gotten Wired is one of the most important in the world, and you’ll find no better guide than Ravi Agrawal. He’s dug in to give us a story of optimism, intrigue, and profound change. And he does it with grace: chasing down stories and introducing us to people
whose stories are revealing and riveting. I read it straight through and I suspect you will too
.”
—Nicholas Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired

“In this delightfully readable book, Ravi Agrawal blends the experiences of an assortment of interesting characters with his own insightful reflections, succinctly capturing an India riding on the wave of the internet-enabled smartphone revolution, while always conscious of its challenges and limitations. His India Connected: How Smartphones are Transforming the World’s Biggest Democracy is illuminating, eye-opening, and like the phones it describes, smart. An engaging read!”
—Shashi Tharoor, author of Inglorious Empire

“The smartphone may well rank among fire and electricity in terms of sheer impact on humanity. And as Ravi Agrawal argues in this book, there are few places in the world that have experienced that revolution as forcefully as India. Like no one else, Agrawal highlights just how far India has come with the smartphone, and how much further it can go. A read as entertaining as it is informative.”
—Ian Bremmer, author of Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism

Moderated by Sree Sreenivasan:
Sree Sreenivasan is a leading consultant, speaker and trainer for nonprofits, corporations, startups and executives. He’s doing 50+ workshops in 25+ cities in 10+ countries this year. In 2018, he and his best friend Andrew Lih launched Digimentors, a new kind of digital consultancy of strategists, trainers and coaches - and doers. They also offer membership programs for individuals and organizations who want year-round training and coaching to thrive in the digital economy. Their clients include UNHCR, the UN refugee agency; the Pulitzer Prizes; Louvre Abu Dhabi; Pratham-USA, the American arm of an Indian nonprofit; TheWrap entertainment news; and Global Teacher Prize, which gives one K-12 teacher in the world $1m.

He has been Chief Digital Officer of major institutions in multiple industries: City of New York (working at City Hall); Columbia University; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (leading a 70-person team that helped keep the 150-year-old institution relevant in the smartphone age). Before joining the Met, he spent 20 years as a full-time professor at Columbia Journalism School. He was named one of Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2015; the world's most influential Chief Digital Officer by CDO Club in 2016; and one of Poynter’s 35 most influential people in social media in 2010. He is a contributor to CNBC's "Squawk Alley," appearing monthly to talk tech.

He taught a course on entrepreneurship at Columbia for four years with Ken Lerer, the co-founder of Huffington Post, chairman of Buzzfeed and co-founder of venture firm LererHippeau. He’s cofounder of SAJ, the South Asian Journalists Assn, a group of 1,000+ journalists across the US and Canada.