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" Many of the villagers said they wanted to access government programs that they heard could be done through the phone.

Most of them were worlds away from the universe of Google, Facebook and Twitter (TWTR).

There's one bus a day that passes through, the only connection to the nearest city more than 50 miles away. Otherwise this phone is just lying there useless." Like nearly 900 million people in India, Devi has never used a smartphone or accessed the internet.

She needs to climb onto the roof of her house to catch a couple of bars of cell service so she can call her children and relatives. The race to bring those millions online, adding to more than 500 million Indians already connected to the internet, is being contested by the biggest global names in tech.

Devi's village in India's Rajasthan state is almost completely off the grid.

It's a sleepy cluster of houses in the middle of the desert.

And they're shaping the future of the internet in the process.

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China’s internet is largely closed off and Brazil has less than a fifth of India’s population.He showed us how he had to climb up a big tree in the middle of the village to try and make calls. It was a phrase I heard throughout the day — "tower problem" — referring to the mobile towers that these villagers were sure would transform their lives.It wasn't even about the internet, which many of them had never experienced."Now we're entering the no network zone," our translator, Amrit Singh, turned and said to me.Minutes earlier my phone had been pinging with emails, text messages and Instagram notifications. We drove on for another 30 minutes, chatting and looking out at the barren landscape, suddenly without our six-inch screens to occupy us.

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