On December 14, 2020, Google online services suffered disruption. The outage lasted almost 45 minutes across all Google services with users unable to login. Some users faced problems with all Google services and were unable to access Gmail, YouTube and Google Docs during the global outage.
Google had a clear monopoly on the mobile search engine market across India with a share of 99.29 per cent as on May 2020. According to data from the Reston, Virginia-based digital marketing intelligence firm Comscore, Gmail's market penetration in India stands at 62 per cent, the highest in the world. In India, Google Play has around 94 per cent market share and accounts for 360 million unique visitors, according to Comscore data released in August 2020. This clearly impinges Bharat to reduce dependence on Google.
India’s digital transformation opportunity and anticipated 850 million smartphone users by 2025 have made the country a desirable market for big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google. The market opportunities for online commerce in the country are expected to touch $200 billion by 2028 from $30 billion in 2018. Also, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more Indians are getting online. These transformations are also generating huge amounts of data.
Recently, a Joint Parliament Committee (JPC) looking into the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, examined the stakeholders, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, to get their perspective on personal data protection issues.
Why we must have “AatmaNirbhar Bharat in Data management”?
In January 2019, at the World Economic Forum, Japanese Prime Minister Abe espoused this new concept of Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT). The WTO member countries that value rule-based digital economy should define and implement Global rules for data governance. Globally accepted data governance rules shall pave the way for DFFT - essential for successful cross-border e-commerce.
With US hegemony DFFT was already there. As the US used to control the internet space, so is
However, the trustee’s of DFFT themselves are in trouble. The US, which controlled the internet space, has seen the repercussions of data free flow in the form of negative impact on elections. Similarly, the UK who initiated the digital single market concept in the EU is facing one of the biggest crisis in history, i.e. Brexit. Brexit again shows a manipulated use of data on social media to influence public opinion negatively. The whole narrative of the nation has been changed and diverted, i.e. from developmental issues to Brexit issues. This is the level of harm data free flow can do.
Secondly, when we say DFFT which category of the data we are talking about. For sure, no country will allow government data to flow freely across the border. Thus, classifying the data like government data, business data, personal data is also a gigantic and complicated task.
Data broker like Oracle already has more than 30,000 attributes of user's data stored in their system. How will policymakers segregate and ensure that this data is not misused? Further, Cyber troop's ability and numbers are increasing rapidly. Access to data will further strengthen the influence of cyber troops on individuals and public perception. This influence can be terrifying as this may lead to horrifying creation of data colonies and data slaves. Creation of Data slaves will threaten the principles of democracy. Any foreign country can destabilise internal peace and harmony of a country based on the negative or biased used of data intelligence through propaganda, trolls, search manipulation, and advertisements.
Democratic country like India cannot afford this risk of misusage of the citizen's data that may not only harm them individually but also the whole country's security and peace.
Because of the devastating cases of data manipulation, more countries are in favour of data localisation. There are few bilateral agreements like between China and Russia (non-aggression treaty) related to data localisation
Political Economy of Data Localisation
Data is the new oil. Many countries, including India, supports data localisation—storing data within the country's jurisdiction. The Law enforcement, geo-politics, individual data protection and human rights are the major factors that drive the demand for Data Localisation. The politics (e.g. controlling public opinion) and economics (e.g. enforcing companies to invest locally on data centre and data processing) shape the data localisation policies of a country.
In 2020 Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rightly proposed to roll-out a new policy for building data centre parks. In 2021 Budget, the Finance Minister should push this further and announce initiatives like boosting local App stores, email service providers, etc.
Bharat urgently needs a short and long term strategy to be “AatmaNirbhar in Data management.”
(The author is the Pentland-Churchill fellow for Global Public Policy leadership at New York University (NYU) and University College London (UCL))