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Digital India bill should democratize information highways, digital ecosystem, address stakeholders concerns & not limit benefits to a big few

Prachi Mishra

In a few days from now, Narendra Modi government is likely to come up with first draft of the much-awaited Digital India Bill. If one were to go by officials, the bill is intended at strengthening information technology, security and information infrastructure in India. The Bill, when finally adopted by Parliament and enacted, will complement the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 and Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022.


In last two decades, after IT Act, 2000 became operative there have been astronomical developments in technological innovation. To keep pace with these innovations, the act’s regulatory framework was amended. The IT Act Amendment of 2008 and IT Rules 2011 were rolled out to define cyberspace and provided ground for handling of digital activities in India.

But, the Act was inadequate to address present-day concerns of cyber security, crime and do justice to privacy concerns of Indian people. Emergence of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Quantum technologies, Metaverse, Big Data, Block chain, etc has thrown up new challenges in the regulatory framework. Given the limitations within the existing IT Act, a separate act has been in the work for a few months to address the growing digital and cyber demands of Indian people.

In this backdrop, India’s economic interests can be furthered when the technological development and innovation apart from related regulatory framework is aligned. With growing penetration of digital technologies and increasing vulnerabilities of cyberspace, there is a need to ensure India’s national security was primacy. Reportedly, Digital India Bill, 2023 is intended at catering to India’s rising aspirations and become a catalyst in her growth and development while upholding people’s fundamental rights and country’s security concerns.

Given the delicate balance that needs to be achieved through the new framework, the expectations from various stakeholders may have to be enlisted. Firstly, the Bill may have to address ethical concerns that are emerging as a consequence of disruptive technologies. Technological development will have to be seen as being morally correct, legitimate, and ethical.

For instance, India should be able to address and counter adverse impact of artificial intelligence like deep fakes and misinformation. The new framework may evolve a robust and holistic mechanism to address issues related to cyber security. In 2022, as per CERT-in data, there were over 1.39 million cyber-attacks on India. This roughly over 253 per cent more than suck attacks reported for 2018.

Hence, the Bill should put in mechanisms to resolve high volume and velocity of these cyber-attacks seen across sector, be it finance, banking, security establishment to political theatre.  Also, with highly disruptive Quantum technologies round the corner, the Bill must suggest ways to ensure cyber security in the new environment.

The proposed bill may have to find solution to tackle the manifold rise in misinformation, hateful content and fake news that’s become the new normal in India. In last couple of years, big technology firms like Facebook and Twitter have been at loggerheads with the government on dealing with mis-formation on their respective platforms. The Bill will have to reflect a possible consensus of all stakeholders on dealing with misinformation, disinformation and fake news that’s rampant.

The bill’s provisions should be aligned with innovation. At present, India’s patent tally is dismal and most technology is imported from the Western countries. Be it hardware or software, India’s patents fall behind big time. The Bill should give impetus and incentivize innovation in digital technologies.

Additionally, it should augur well for all the stakeholders of digital ecosystem and not restrict the benefits disproportionately to a handful tech firms. The new dispensation may have to address issues like liability, accountability, and ownership of data and its usage. Of late, there have been cases where social unrest resulted in violence and arson because content guidelines for these platforms were amiss. Or, even the existing norms were violated.

The Digital India Bill, 2023 will be discussed at a time when India has moved many notches above in many different fields of technological and digital innovation. Being home to 113 unicorns and third largest start-up economy, India’s innovation ecosystem is booming like never before. Also, with the Semiconductor Mission, the strong impetus on adopting digital technologies, and the National Quantum Mission in place, India is bound to grow steadily in the coming years.

Stakeholders expect the bill to empower them, democratize the information high way and digital ecosystem, aid other relevant economic policies. India should ensure that all voices of the entire stakeholder ecosystem are heard and it is enacted in time.

(Author is Research Consultant at Centre for Integrated & Holistic Studies, New Delhi based non-partisan think tank)

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