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Politics

The face of Facebook smartens up for Asia tour

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Indonesian President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo shakes hands with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Jakarta city hall on Oct. 13.   © Reuters

JAKARTA/NEW DELHI -- Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was looking unusually well-turned-out in recent meetings with two of Asia's newest leaders as he pledged to help authorities boost Internet usage.

     On a visit to India, Zuckerberg met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.  On Monday, the 30-year-old billionaire met with Indonesia's incoming president Joko Widodo, who assumes office next week.  

     Zuckerberg, who is usually seen in jeans and a t-shirt, chose to wear a dark suit for his meeting with Modi, an active Facebook user. He also met with India's communications and IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who told the media that Facebook "is keen" to help India in areas like broadband retail, e-education and e-health.

Zuckerberg meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Oct. 10. (Courtesy of Indian Prime Minister's Office)

     The four-day tour took place as the rapid rise of users in Asia becomes central to Facebook's growth strategy. India and Indonesia have Facebook's second and fourth largest user populations -- more than 100 million and 65 million, respectively.  Facebook opened its Jakarta office earlier this year.

     Facebook is meanwhile banned from China, the world's most populous country and second largest economy.

     "I'm very excited to work together with the new leadership to help grow Internet access," Zuckerberg told reporters on Monday. "Our goal is to work with the authorities to provide connectivity"

     Widodo, who actively used Facebook during his presidential campaign, acknowledged the social networking service's role in boosting Indonesia's economic growth. He said he had talked with Zuckerberg about Facebook's potential for developing micro and small businesses. After the meeting, the two made a brief tour of a nearby textiles market.

     Zuckerberg later attended a 'summit' hosted by Internet.org, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve network connectivity across the world. It was established last year by some of the world's largest Internet companies including Facebook, Samsung and Ericsson.

     "The big priorities [addressed by Widodo] were growing jobs and the economy -- growing Internet connectivity is one of the best ways to do that," Zuckerberg remarked during the meeting.

     Zuckerberg made similar comments during his two days in India as he pitched for making the Internet affordable and accessible to over a billion people. He also discussed with Modi his Digital India initiative, which aims to make Indian government services available online. He said Facebook particularly wants to work with the Indian government on healthcare and education.

     Bringing everyone down to earth, Modi noted while he hoped Facebook would promote India's tourism industry, terrorist elements use social media platforms to recruit members. He described this as "unfortunate".

     "We need to think of the role social media can play to stop terror," an official statement quoted Modi as telling the face of Facebook.

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