February 05, 2020, New Delhi
Speaking at a CUTS International and CIRC event on ‘Digital Economy – Hitting the reset button on competition and regulatory governance’, Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, confirmed providing a window of three-weeks for public consultation on the proposed Competition (Amendment) Bill 2019. Furthermore, he suggested undertaking competition assessments of sectors being impacted by digital technologies, wherein the Competition Commission of India (CCI) also has a proactive role to play. He also pressed the need for digitalisation of the economy and bridging the digital divide to achieve India’s target of becoming a US$5tn economy by 2024-25.
Gopal Krishna Agarwal, National Spokesperson – Economics Affairs, Bharatiya Janata Party, highlighted the disruptive nature of digital economy, and iterated the need for optimal regulation. Fair competition, and protection of intellectual property rights, were suggested for spurring domestic innovation. Need for building capacity and competitiveness amongst domestic industry players was mentioned as an imperative, since protectionism was not a long-term solution.
Ashok Kumar Gupta, Chairperson, CCI, stressed on the need for evidence-based research driving policy making in India. Recognising that digital markets are not impervious to anti-competitive practices, he highlighted the importance of timely detection and intervention of antitrust issues in the new age digital economy, which would ensure inclusive growth. Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, noted competition and regulatory regimes as tools to guide fair markets to function efficiently and promote economic growth. He questioned the need to redesign such tools to navigate effectively in an increasingly online and digitally enabled economy.
Shashi Tharoor, Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, while in a conversation with Nitin Desai, President, CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC), highlighted the many lowlights of The Personal Data Protection Bill with respect to lack of independence of the proposed Data Protection Authority, vast exemptions given to government agencies without adequate oversight, restrictions placed on cross-border data flow etc.
Arvind Mayaram, Chairman, CIRC, moderated the panel on ‘New Age Competition & Regulatory Challenges and the Way Forward’. While speaking on the subject, Payal Malik, Adviser (Economics), CCI, highlighted the importance of competition in fostering innovation. Large incumbents acquiring startups in their early days was cited as an encumbrance to competition and innovation. Arun Maira, Former Member, Planning Commission, cautioned that citizens are being treated as products and their data as a resource in the digital economy. A more citizen-centric approach while drafting regulations was opined to be the need of the hour.
Ashutosh Chadha, Vice President, Mastercard, proposed three pillars of focus for regulating digital technology driven businesses, namely: consumer experience, security & trust and innovation. These were expected to lead to more collaborative and open business models. V Sridhar, Professor, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, suggested the government to promote self-regulation for enabling ethical and transparent designs of algorithms, to inculcate the philosophy of AI for good. If self-regulation fails then co-regulation may only be adopted, and if the latter also fails then government can introduce hard regulation. Dr Mayaram, concluded by saying that the diverse issues raised during the panel is mere beginning and it would take many such discussions before policy and regulatory optimality is achieved.
The event was jointly organised by CUTS and CIRC, in which the flagship biennial report on ‘Competition and Regulation in India 2019’ was released. The event witnessed participation of 80 to 100 representatives from civil society organisations, industry players, academicians, former bureaucrats, policy influencers, media etc.