NDCP 2018 policy forward looking: CUTS International

UNI, June 05, 2018

Welcoming the draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018 (NDCP) by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), CUTS International said the policy is forward looking and marks a commendable shift from the erstwhile telecom specific to a broader digital communications perspective. The objectives knitted around accessibility, affordability, inclusiveness and security, if achieved, have the potential to transform India into a global digital force, a statement said.

CUTS International said however, the policy should also enhance its focus on transparency to ensure consumer welfare. Initiatives, like “tariff portal” by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), are sought for Quality of Service (QoS) of broadband and other telecom services as well, to enable consumers in making informed decisions. The sector also needs light-touch regulatory approach, especially given its financial health. Measures like, according optic fibre network as essential utilities or delicensing of E and V bands or imposing any fresh mandates on telcos, should be carefully evaluated for their implications on telecom players. For this, tools such as Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) and Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) might be adopted. Also, TRAI should be empowered with greater powers to regulate the sector efficiently.

At the same time, when the world was fast moving towards future technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine to Machine (M2M) learning and others, India had to step up its pursuit towards innovation. This would require developing more R&D centres, capacity building of youth as well as skilling institutions.

Further, NDCP needed to strike an optimal balance with the National IPR policy, along with regulatory and competitive policy regimes. Also, the Preferential Market Access (PMA) should only be a short-term incentive and not act as deterrent to international products. Rather, ICT products ‘Made in India’, should be able to compete with international products, without any safeguard measure.

India also needed enhancement in the inflow of foreign investments, for which, it had to ensure regulatory certainty and address on-ground ‘ease of doing business’ challenges. The dilemma over data localisation, as well as measures to secure consumer data and privacy, needed to be sorted at the earliest. This might be done through some constructive measures, such as incentivising data storage without a mandate, enhancing capacities for data processing, analytics and utilisation for business advantage. While, multiple WiFi hotspots were being deployed across the country, NDCP must ensure a strong security network to safeguard consumers.

Finally, NDCP needed to suggest possible strategies, towards the achievement of its objectives and by stipulating suggestive deadlines. In order to ensure an effective interaction and designing practical action points, the government departments and ministries should not work in silos and should rather adopt a “whole of government approach”.

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