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US advocacy group seeks ties with India on pending tech regulations

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The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a premier global advocate for technology that represents U.S. technology giants like Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Meta (NASDAQ: META), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), said it is looking forward to working on pending regulations with the new team at India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

In what was the largest election in human history, India concluded its seven-phased voting process from April 19 to June 1 with about 970 million registered voters. Results were announced on June 4 to elect 543 members of the Lower House of Parliament, or Lok Sabha. The newly-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) unanimously chose Narendra Modi as prime minister for a rare third term, extending his 10-year rule for another five years. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), under the leadership of Modi, is scheduled to form the government for a third consecutive term after the swearing-in ceremony on June 9.

“ITI looks forward to engaging with the new team at the IT Ministry. There are several pending bills and regulations that will require the incoming government’s attention, such as rulemaking for the Digital Personal Data Protection Act and finalising the Digital India Bill, that we engaged with the previous government,” Kumardeep Banerjee, Country Director at ITI, said in a statement.

“ITI continues to support a consultative, agile, and globally harmonized approach towards regulation, supporting innovation and growth for the ICT (information and communication technology) sector in India and globally. We will continue to engage with the incoming government with the same spirit,” Banerjee added.

The legislation, which was expected to be ready before this year’s general elections, was pushed back for further discussions and is now scheduled to be taken up by the new government.

Why it matters?

India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA), introduced last year, aims to establish a comprehensive framework that allows Indians greater control over their data and imposes stricter obligations on businesses that use it. This Act is expected to significantly impact global companies in the way they process personal data in India and transfer data to and from other countries. Given India’s status as the world’s most populated country and an emerging technology powerhouse, most global technology companies will be impacted by this.

“The Digital Personal Data Protection Act is a world-class legislation,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, former minister of state for electronics and information technology, said in August last year.

“Looking back to 2010, when I was an MP, I introduced a private members’ bill in the Parliament, asking for privacy to be recognized as a fundamental right. Unfortunately, the government at that time did not feel it was a necessary debate. Essentially, personal data of citizens of this country was available for exploitation,” Chandrasekhar pointed out.

“With the 830 million Indians who use the internet, and by 2025-26 it will be 1.2 billion Indians, we are the largest connected country in the world. We deserve to be setting our own standards in any conversation about technology for the future rather than borrowing anything from the EU or US,” Chandrasekhar added.

At the same time, the Digital India Act 2023 is expected to replace India’s two-decade-old Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act) and is aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities brought about by the growth of the internet and emerging technologies.

“Internet, devices and information technology have empowered citizens. However, these have also created challenges in the form of user harm, ambiguity in user rights, security, women and child safety, organised information wars, radicalisation and circulation of hate speech, misinformation and fake news, unfair trade practices, etc.,” MeitY stated in its proposal.

“This law is creating a new regime. We will allow companies and industries a transitional period. The era of misuse, the era of exploitation, the era of believing that Indian citizens don’t have rights comes to an end with this law,” said Chandrasekhar.

In case of a citizen’s data breach, they simply need to visit the website, provide the data protection board with details, and the board will initiate an inquiry, imposing penalties on the breaching platforms. However, Chandrasekhar said the penalties would be punitive so that it incentivises platforms to be responsible.

Watch: India is going to be the frontrunner in digitalization

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