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Digital India Act targets anonymised data tapped by Big Tech

The upcoming Digital India Act seeks to create a future-ready framework for the digital ecosystem of a country that’s home to the highest number of internet users outside of China.

That’s according to Union IT and Electronics Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who said that consultations for this “overarching digital law” would start as early as this month, with a bill likely to be tabled in the Budget session of the Parliament next year.

“We are creating a future-ready framework for the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘India Techade’,” Chandrasekhar told BQ Prime’s Sanjay Pugalia, during an interview in New Delhi on Dec. 2.

The framework includes:

  • The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022.
  • The Digital India Act.
  • The National Data Governance Policy.

“The idea is to create a framework that is a global standard for cyber law, competitive and modern—that’s the goal,” he said in the interview.

But how different is the Digital India Act from the recently introduced Digital Personal Data Protection Bill?

“The act goes beyond the scope of the Data Protection Bill to address issues such as user harm, openness, ethics, competition, etc.,” Chandrasekhar said.

The scope of an independent data regulator, à la SEBI for India’s capital markets, will come under the Digital India Act—a successor to the Information Technology Act, 2000, he said.

To be sure, the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, does entail creation of a Data Protection Board—an independent traffic cop of sorts that penalises data misuse. It is open to scrutiny by the high courts of India.

And while the Data Protection Bill seeks to put the brakes on misuse of personal data and ensure data rights of Indians, the Digital India Act will look at anonymised data tapped by Big Tech companies, Chandrasekhar said.

Monetisation Of Anonymised Data
The Union Minister said the time has come for users to stake claim to their anonymised data—personal data that has been converted into non-personal data for commercial use by a platform.

“Under consultation is the ownership of anonymised data: Does it rest with the user or the country? This is a problem area globally, and we want to plug this gap,” he said.

“The digital economy globally is worth trillions of dollars…where the Big Tech companies consume data with no oversight,” Chandrasekhar said. “It is our responsibility and duty to put the brakes on access to data…and Big Tech should share this value created with the citizen as well as the state.”

The Digital India Act will seek to bring some equity, equitability and order in the consumption of data, he said. The standards of anonymised data will be decided by the government under the India Data Management Office, he said.

Chandrasekhar also wants intellectual property created using data generated by Indians to be made in India. “Which is why, we have created this India Datasafe Program, wherein there will be crores of datasets. Only Indian startups and researchers will get access to this anonymised data.”

India And AI
Artificial Intelligence is the kinetic enabler of a digital economy, and India—given the amount of data it consumes and generates—has the opportunity to take the lead in the space, the minister said.

An example of this is Bhashini AI, which seeks “to build a National Public Digital Platform for languages to develop services and products for citizens by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies”, according to its website.

“In our country, language has been a barrier for inclusion into the internet. To bridge that, we have launched Bhashini,” Chandrasekhar said. “By 2023, we would have created apps for multilingual access to the internet. This would be the true inclusion.” Bloomberg

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