Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees Facebook as an inspiration for his vision

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, speaks as Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, listens during a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
David Paul Morris |Bloomberg | Getty Images

India's prime minister has shown that inspiration can come from all directions: Narendra Modi says he looks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter as an inspiration for his own goals.

Modi said the success of such platforms have set the bar for the speed and extent to which technology can change people's lives. He now wants to replicate that success in his plans for India.

"We have to believe that development and empowerment can spread with this same speed at which Facebook, Twitter or mobile phones have spread across the world," Modi said at the Singapore FinTech Festival Wednesday.

The Indian leader has long been a vocal advocate of technology, employing it in unique and innovative ways at various stages of his political career. During campaigning, he used holograms to galvanize support across the vast country, and he's frequently pushed for greater technological connectivity for Indian cities.

But it was only when Modi came to power in 2014 that he was able to start rolling out his primary vision for India: Using financial technology — or fintech — to give citizens greater access to bank accounts, credit and other financial freedoms.

"That vision is rapidly changing into a reality," said the 68-year-old.

Just four years ago, less than 15 percent of India's 1.35 billion citizens had bank accounts. Today, the country has more than 1 billion bank accounts. That's due in part to the near-universal roll out of a digital biometric identification scheme in India.

"With the power of fintech, and the reach of digital connectivity, we have started a revolution of historic speed and scale," said Modi.

Modi said that revolution was largely thanks to the millions of young entrepreneurs in his country whose work to increase financial inclusion had, he said, created an "explosion" of innovation and turned India into a "leading start-up nation."

But he also urged more to get involved and find new ways to use financial technology to change the fortunes of billions of people's lives, both in India and beyond.

"What we dream for India is what we also wish for the world," said Modi. "This is a common journey for all."

"Each era is defined by its opportunities and challenges, each generation has the responsibility to shape the future," he continued. "At no time in history were we faced with so many possibilities to make opportunity and prosperity a reality in the lifetime of billions."

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