July 10, 2020
Speaking at a webinar ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat and Cross Border Data Flows’, organised by CUTS International, Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Hon’ble Member of Parliament (MP), Rajya Sabha (RS) and Member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (PDPB), opined that Data Localisation (DL) to be a narrow response to achieve government objectives, and highlights lack of holistic or sectoral understanding. He suggested that costs of DL may outweigh its incremental benefits. He called for review of all digital policies, examining their cross-sectoral impact, and designing them afresh to fit the new realities.
Mr. Chandrashekhar added that India’s IT/IT-BPM sector is very important to the country, and the sector gains more significance in a post-COVID world. He attributed its success to minimal regulatory intervention and entrepreneurship skill, and cautioned against heavy handed government interventions, which he believed to be counterproductive to the sector’s growth.
Shri Amar Patnaik, Hon’ble MP, RS and Member of JPC, PDPB, highlighted the importance of ensuring data security and data sovereignty. He called for incentivising local storage of data by creating an enabling environment for the data centre industry, while highlighting numerous licenses required at present to establish and operate a data centre. He suggested the government to adopt a regulatory sandbox approach for framing optimal regulations, and unlocking India’s potential of becoming the world capital of data storage and processing.
Mr. Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, underlined the need for Indian policy makers to transition from a control to a facilitation model. He went on to highlight various adverse impacts of DL on India’s digital services exports, which could have a ripple adverse effect on employment and GDP. The same was substantiated by CUTS research report ‘Data Localisation – India’s double-edged sword?’ which was released in the webinar (available at: bit.ly/3iPnIwH).
Mr. Deepak Maheshwari, public policy consultant, while quoting Prime Minister Modi, opined DL to be counter-productive to atmanirbharta goals with respect to digital economy. He called for exploring other mechanisms to ensure law enforcement agencies access to data, and suggested strengthening Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties.
Mr. Gulshan Rai, Chief Information Security Officer, Prime Minister’s Office, stressed on the need to consider DL not from the lens of security, but technology and practical enforceability perspective, while giving the example of Reserve Bank of India’s mandate on local storage of payments data.
Ms. Ankhi Das, Director, Public Policy, South & Central Asia, Facebook, emphasised on the need to base economic policy decisions on evidence-based research, and highlighted the existing paucity of evidence showing DL leading to economic development, although its adverse impact have been well documented.
Underlying the strategic opportunity for the IT-BPM industry, Mr. Udai S Mehta, Deputy Executive Director, CUTS International, proposed India to strengthen its leadership in the IT industry, and advance its growth through digital trade, riding on cross-border data flows.
The webinar was attended by approximately 100 participants. These included government representatives, academicians, sector experts, service providers, civil society organisations, media personnel etc, from all over the world.
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