Outliers 16: How Osama Manzar plans to take the next billion Indians online (and fight for net neutrality)

Pankaj Mishra May 10, 2017 1 min


Osama Manzar is a monk in India’s digital ecosystem. And that’s not just because he looks like a monk. Manzar, a digital nomad traveling across the country’s hinterland, runs Digital Empowerment Foundation, and has taken up the mission of helping the next billion Indians get online.

“Half the world, which is not connected, is in South Asia. And in India, 75% of the women are still not online,” he says.

In September 2015, Manzar also took on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for violating net neutrality in India.

Getting the next billion users online is not just a Holy Grail for companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, but also a hidden agenda to hoard all the world’s data. As The Economist pointed out in this article a few days ago, the world’s most valuable resource is not oil, but data.

As I sit down with him for recording the Outliers podcast in his office, he shares his next battle — fighting the greedy companies looking to assemble all of the world’s data and using it to serve their corporate interests.

“All human beings are being treated like data sets,” he says.

“How algorithm and data is a means of exploitation and manipulation… is my next battle. These companies are deciding what I should consume, buy and so on… it’s a dangerous situation, and the next billion are completely ignorant about this.”

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