New Delhi: Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Saturday said that there is a fundamental reset underway in semiconductor, electronics and innovation world order post-COVID, and like-minded nations need to work together on a cooperative framework to shape the future of technology.
To safeguard citizens from online user harm, India has defined the boundary conditions of openness, safety and trust as well as accountability for platforms and companies to operate on the Indian Internet, the minister said and hoped that with global cooperation these principles will find a wider play among other nations. Chandrasekhar was speaking at a panel discussion on `Democracy's Eleven: Protecting our Technology Future' at the Raisina Dialogue 2023.
To a question on internet shutdown in India, the minister said that the internet shutdowns as percentage of the total number of online users in India considering the diversity or enormity of content ecosystem, is among the smallest in the world. Moreover, any internet shutdown or content takedown is lawfully prescribed and lawfully ordered by the government in exceptional circumstances under the law, the minister explained.
Post-COVID, clearly the digital supply chains, value chains, innovation ecosystem, and critical technologies ecosystem are undergoing a deep structural change. And while there is indeed a re-ordering of the world order in semiconductors, electronics, and innovation, "no country is going to be able to do this alone."
The minister advocated a cooperative framework among like-minded countries in shaping the future of technology.
"So, I think what we are proposing in India and we've been steadily arguing for this for some years now, is that among like-minded countries there ought to be more of a co-operative framework whether through that co-operative framework or prism, you look at future tech, critical tech regulating the internet, the rules, and go/no-go areas," he said.
The minister asserted that the post-COVID new world requires a much more institutional framework in how nations approach technologies and the future of tech in particular. There is no difference between democracy and digital democracy, and the fundamental values for physical world and cyberspace are the same, he said.
The laws have lagged behind in terms of innovation and progress and growth of big platforms, he said observing that governments across the world are trying to catch up with that lag over the last ten years. "Certainly, in India, we are trying to catch up very fast," Chandrasekhar said.
The minister observed that the relationship between governments, tech and the internet is undergoing a tectonic change. There is a "correction" in the way governments are responding to platforms, and what the platforms mean in terms of good as also user harm, and other issues.
"For many years, innovation was left unregulated because it was innovation. So, you suddenly found, after a decade of being left alone, we suddenly have to deal with the so-called problems of big tech," he said. India, he said, has clearly set the boundary conditions for platforms to operate.
The internet being a safe and trusted space is an 'article of faith' and a duty for the government to deliver to its citizens. "And the third, is accountability principle, that regardless of whether you're a big tech headquartered in a (particular) land or nation, if you do business in India, you have to be accountable," Chandrasekhar said.
Certain casted obligations of platforms operating in India are prescribed and enforced through the IT rules. "We have got nine categories of content and information that are absolutely no-go areas for platforms and there is a casted obligation on them, that if they want to enjoy the immunity and Safe Harbor, under our laws, from prosecution and continue to pretend that they are not publishers, they have to do these (comply with rules on) one to nine content issues ranging from CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) to misinformation at the other end of spectrum," Chandrasekhar said.
While there is that 'predictable conversation' about whether or not it infringes on freedom of speech, or privacy, "our contention is that we will protect the fundamental rights of Indian citizens, but at the same time, we have a duty to maintain that internet is a safe and trusted space for all Indians," Chandrasekhar said.
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