By Troy Han
In India, knowledge is being handled as a strategic useful resource that must be safeguarded from exterior exploitation and made obtainable for home necessities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi even went as far as to say that ‘knowledge is the brand new gold’.
Knowledge is a brand new forex that flows throughout borders, enabling data change and facilitating transactions at report speeds. Whereas its position in nation-building is unequivocal, its attendant dangers to privateness and safety have additionally amplified requires states to guard the constitutional rights and welfare of its residents. The Indian authorities has enacted knowledge localisation measures — reminiscent of imposing a knowledge duplicate to be retained regionally or limiting cross-border knowledge flows — in varied jurisdictions to carry massive tech corporations accountable for misappropriating delicate knowledge.
Chairman of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, has argued that ‘Indian knowledge ought to be owned by Indians’, whereas India’s Exterior Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, equally noticed that India has ‘to be a number one energy in additionally harnessing knowledge’. Many voters and companies in India have villainised international industrial corporations for his or her half in knowledge colonialism — a time period synonymous with capitalist appropriation and sometimes used to invoke a way of financial injustice.
Regardless of a litany of references to the time period ‘knowledge sovereignty’ in mainstream media, there isn’t any compelling narrative that encapsulates India’s official place, besides an amalgamation of ‘statements made by authorities officers on sovereignty within the realm of information and new applied sciences’. Bharatiya Janata Get together politician Vinit Goenka justified that ‘data which has been transformed and saved in binary digital kind is topic to the legal guidelines of the nation during which it’s situated’.
India’s knowledge sovereignty imaginative and prescient works to harness knowledge for financial development and growth by regulatory oversight and develop nationwide defence towards geopolitical safety challenges. It additionally seeks to have interaction in worldwide diplomacy to make sure the equitable building of digital commerce guidelines.
India is a quickly rising digital energy, however leans on technological self-reliance by protectionist knowledge measures in favour of home corporations and inspired indigenous technological innovation to spice up its total digital financial system. India behaves like a techno-authoritarian state by its position as a custodian of its residents’ knowledge whereas looking for to develop into a world knowledge centre hub. This isn’t with out its trade-offs. Whereas obligatory sharing of sure datasets is meant to maintain a monopoly of energy in examine, it could stifle honest competitors and innovation, particularly when smaller companies discover these knowledge rules onerous.
Geopolitical points reminiscent of international surveillance and knowledge warfare intersecting with India’s core strategic pursuits have additionally just lately intensified home debates on securitisation dynamics involving knowledge. As a conservative state, India’s knowledge insurance policies are something however laissez-faire. A 2018 report launched by the Srikrishna Committee flagged that, with out ample safeguards on public databases and programs, important knowledge comprising well being, infrastructure and authorities companies may very well be compromised by international nationals or potential treasonous actors.
Whereas India’s coverage on knowledge flows isn’t minimize and dry, the federal government’s need to affect the structure of world knowledge governance by turning into a form of ‘mannequin for the worldwide world’ is clear. Given India’s sizeable inhabitants and rising web penetration charge, it has the potential to develop into a number one world mannequin if its digital initiatives show profitable.
As an illustration, the India Stack, established as a nationwide digital infrastructure comprising interoperable grids, presents a lot inspiration for growing international locations to emulate. That is contingent on whether or not the federal government has the political will to facilitate cross-border digital cooperation and share its techno-legal experience with the world.
The nationalistic undertones of India’s knowledge governance framework have been obvious in its international commerce insurance policies. India has constantly rejected negotiating e-commerce guidelines on the World Commerce Group (WTO), as a substitute advocating for growing international locations to impose taxes arising from digital transactions to spice up nationwide income. Regardless of this, India has additionally demonstrated its willingness to recalibrate in accordance with its dynamic strategic calculus. For instance, in November 2022, India relaxed its knowledge localisation measures by releasing an up to date draft knowledge privateness invoice, paving the way in which for extra constructive discussions on cross-border knowledge flows at subsequent WTO boards.
Socioeconomic and safety dangers to nation-building have formed India’s knowledge policymaking to a big extent, even because it tries to navigate a fragmented world digital order and try for technological self-sufficiency. India’s diplomatic engagements have been characteristically passive, although the federal government has saved its doorways open to financial cooperation amid ongoing geopolitical tensions. By selecting to remain at an arms-length from the continuing US–China rivalry, India is in a candy spot to accomplice with growing international locations on digital industrialisation tasks as a part of its international coverage ambitions.
Because it hosts the G20 presidency, 2023 could also be India’s 12 months to burnish its repute as a trusted dealer for the International South — a chance to take the lead in facilitating non-binding discussions about knowledge governance. Partaking in digital diplomacy that’s anchored on a principles-driven method, versus ideological pursuits, will assist India reiterate its dedication to defending human rights and promote a knowledge governance regime the place knowledge dividends are distributed equitably to all stakeholders.
Concerning the creator: Troy Han is a Masters scholar in Asian Research on the S. Rajaratnam College of Worldwide Research (RSIS), Nanyang Technological College, Singapore.
Supply: This text was revealed by East Asia Discussion board