Datacracy: Indian Prime Minister's 'data democracy' must avoid the flaws of the country’s political system

Datacracy: Indian Prime Minister's 'data democracy' must avoid the flaws of the country’s political system
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing NASSCOM’s Technology and Leadership Forum (NTFL) 2021PMO
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country’s “data has been democratised” with India’s new data laws expected to be tabled during the upcoming session of Parliament.
  • These new laws will dictate how your data is collected, stored, used and shared.
  • Business Insider India’s new campaign called ‘Datacracy’ dives into how technology has the power to improve democracy or undermine it, depending on how it is used and who controls it.
“Data has been democratised. Several government services are now being delivered online.The poor and middle class have not only benefited from the convenience, but also seen relief from corruption,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during software industry association NASSCOM’s Technology and Leadership Forum (NTFL) 2021.

Datacracy: Indian Prime Minister's 'data democracy' must avoid the flaws of the country’s political system
Business Insider India dives into India's journey to becoming a data democracyBI India

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These comments from Modi have come at a time when India is getting set to debate a new bill for data protection — likely to be tabled on March 15.

It is imperative that India’s new governance mechanisms as well as industrial advances, built on precious consumer data, should be guided by democratic values. And, that is why, Business Insider India’s campaign for awareness and advocacy around Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, is titled ‘Datacracy’.
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These new laws will set the foundation for India’s evolution, as a data democracy, in the digital era.


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What is Datacracy?
Just as people treasure the power of an electoral vote in a political democracy, every individual consumer’s personal data would be considered as precious in a ‘data democracy’, such as the one promised by the Indian Prime Minister.

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The rights of ⁠— and the responsibilities towards⁠ — the citizen or consumer, in lieu of the power to collect and use their data, whether it is for governance or business, will also be immense.

The Indian government and India Inc. should ensure transparency and accountability in the way this data is collected, stored and managed, keeping in mind the sanctity of the consumer’s privacy.

Just like one wouldn’t appreciate the local cop, or neighbourhood grocer, to track every bit of your daily routine —- like what you like to eat, who you go out with, and so on — it is every consumer’s right to demand the same level of privacy in the digital space as well. And, that is where the new data protection bill will play an important role.

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Since this bill is yet to be debated and approved by the Parliament, we have the opportunity to highlight the issues and get them fixed before it becomes a law.


India’s new laws will dictate how your data is collected, stored, used and shared.

The government has proposed setting up a non-personal data authority (NPDA) in the Data Protection Bill. However, the bill is vague on the incentives and accountability of the NDPA. However, there is no transparent, predictable and targeted regulatory regime as per the review done by Ikigailaw.
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Datacracy: Indian Prime Minister's 'data democracy' must avoid the flaws of the country’s political system
Role of the NPDA as per the Data Protection Bill 2019BI India

Technology has the power to improve democracy or undermine depending on how it is used and who controls it. Neither politicians nor big corporations ⁠— like witnessed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 ⁠— can be trusted entirely with data that can be used to manipulate the consumer’s choices.

However, in India, the debate so far has been reduced to this Hobson’s choice for the consumer between private corporations and the government. Hobson’s choice is basically a “take it or leave it” situation, where there is pragmatically only one choice on offer.

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India made a bold choice when it created the India Stack. The government gave private developers access to a lot of personal data of citizens to create applications on top of it.

Datacracy: Indian Prime Minister's 'data democracy' must avoid the flaws of the country’s political system
Layers of India StackIndiaStack/Twitter

This led to a lot of improvement in both government services like the creation of the Digi-Locker, and digital payments revolution — including India-specific innovations like Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Moreover, it created a new crop of millionaires and billionaires from the startup world.

A similar experiment is due with blockchain technology.
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While these innovations are welcome, they would be incomplete — or even be a failure — if the access to people’s personal data is democratised without providing adequate safeguards, including the right to be forgotten, in the consumer’s interest. This is what Business Insider aims to achieve with its ‘Datacracy’ campaign.

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