In the fast paced digital world the mantra of, "move past and break things" is a fading chant. Today, for a need to -- pause, consider and plan ahead. Here an important, annual moment is provided as the Union Government prepares it's annual budget. Yesterday, we submitted comments to the Ministry of Finance how it can account for the digital economy and rights in four important ways. These will protect your privacy, security and right to internet access. What's more? They will help fuel innovation and health in the digital sector!
How many zeroes are there in a trillion ?
The Union Government envisions the digital economy as a trillion dollar opportunity by 2025 (link). These are big numbers. Such ambitious projections are often found on the basis of a robust growth in the number of internet connections in India. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) notes in it's latest subscription report for November, 2019 for these to be close to 661 million (link).
Users of the internet are central to the story of how the digital economy in India is growing. Focussing on them, we have made 4 clear recommendations to the Ministry of Finance for the Union Budget 2020-21.
- These are first growing regulatory capacity in TRAI and the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY). While TRAI is considering Net Neutrality enforcement, MEITY should be adequately resourced for the institutional preparation of a Data Protection Authority.
- Second, we need an online and digital environment which is safe and secure for all of us. This can only be done by rationalizing the present budgetary allocations on cyber security which are principally earmarked to the Ministry of Home Affairs towards other bodies such as the Fin-Cert.
- Third, let us not waste money on illegal and unconstitutional surveillance programmes. While expenditures such as those on the Social Media Communication Hub or the NATGRID should not be made since they are illegal per se, for other programmes, funding should not be alloacated without a clear underlying law, a privacy compliant assessment and the necessary safeguards.
- Finally, we also call for a recognition of the economic harms caused by internet shutdowns. Want to read more? Click below to read our submission to the Ministry of Finance, made yesterday through the MyGov portal.
- IFF's Submission dated January 20, 2020 to the Ministry of Finance on the Union Budget 2020-21 (click here)