Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, has addressed more than 350 business leaders in the US, urging them to help the country connect digitally while lifting people out of poverty.

Modi, the first Indian leader to visit the West Coast in more than 30 years, announced at a dinner on Saturday that Google would bring wireless internet to more than 500 Indian railway stations "in a short time".

Modi also used the speech to sell technology executives on his Digital India initiative, which aims to connect thousands more Indian villages to the internet, create more tech jobs and move more services online.


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Modi hopes to attract funds and skills from US innovators to help India's start-up scene grow, and will seek during the trip encourage some Indians who have thrived in Silicon Valley to bring their knowledge back home.

"We must bridge the digital divide and promote digital literacy in the same way that we seek to ensure general literacy," Modi said, according to prepared remarks.

"Poverty is a massive problem in India and technology-based entrepreneurship can be an antidote."

Digitising India

Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born CEOs respectively of Microsoft and Google, were among those who moderated a panel before Modi's speech.

Modi's speech included references to numerous US tech companies he said have helped reshape India, including Facebook , its units Instagram and WhatsApp, and Twitter.

Modi, right, hopes to attract funds and skills from US innovators to help India's start-up scene grow [Getty Images]

Modi has driven digitising of the Indian government and has garnered a large social media following, making him the second-most followed world leader after US President Barack Obama.

He has 15 million Twitter followers and more than 30 million "likes" on Facebook.

The first day of Modi's West Coast visit included a visit to Tesla Motors and a meeting with the chief executive, Elon Musk, where the two discussed renewable energy, which Modi is eager to bring to India.


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Modi later met Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive.

On Sunday, Modi was set to host an open town hall with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive, and will also visit Google headquarters.

Modi will end his tour with an event at the San Jose Convention Center that more than 18,000 people are expected to attend. More than 45,000 people reportedly applied for access.

On Monday, Modi is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama in New York.

Source: Agencies