India's smartphone generation demands digital rights to be a governance priority

Our country is a stepping stone away from one of its most significant moments. In the next few months we will take part in the largest election exercise all around the world. This cycle should not only be viewed in terms of power, victors and losers, but public issues which become governance priorities. We are today announcing that we will be conducting pro-active outreach to ensure that digital rights find reflection in the campaign priorities of all candidates, across afflictions and ideology.

India's growing smartphone generation

What will make this election different from others? While we generally avoid political punditry some figures evidence how and why digital rights must feature as a priority in the campaign manifestos of political parties and all candidates.

Firstly, there is an increased number of young voters that fall within the age bracket of 20-34 as per the latest figures of the Election Commission of India. Forty-five million young people have become eligible to vote in these upcoming elections. This has roughly increased our electorate by about 5%. The hopes and aspirations of these young group of Indians sometimes referred to as millennials or Generation Y rest upon the political promises of a better future.

This makes the second most important factor, technology. More Indians are today online than ever. As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India about 560.01 million Indian's are online at the end of Sep-18 with quarterly growth rate of 9.32%. These massive numbers signal that the digital divide is incrementally being bridged for scores of our fellow citizens. The continuing adoption of internet also signals a continuing belief that it has the potential to make our lives better. This can only be ensured when the users have rights, remedies and safeguards.

A core issue which is recurring in this aspect, has been the absence of a clearly articulated message and a charter of demands surrounding technology. One which can be placed before political parties to input into their campaign manifestos through which it can promote greater engagement on these issues and ensuring productive outcomes through institutions and governance processes.

Our attempt at a digital rights manifesto

We have some thoughts here as an organisation that has been working on digital rights issues. We think that it’s time to stop being reactive and begin engaging positively with all candidates and parties to ensure greater consensus on digital rights which can only come from an understanding of our constitutional values.

An initial set of demands which has been drafted after conversations with a few groups and experts from the digital rights sector are being made available by us publicly for review and inputs. At the same time due the short timelines for the finalisation of campaign manifestos we are reaching out to all political parties and candidates to open a channel of communication.

Link to the Digital Rights Agenda (GoogleDoc)

We admit that we do not have all the answers and in the coming weeks will keep seeking opinions, collaborations and reaching out to fine tune our approach and the substance of these proposals. However, given the short timelines we think it is imperative to start this conversation. Together we must consider what can be done to ensure greater liberty, equality, fraternity and justice in and through technology.

We feel that these demands will greatly benefit India's smartphone generation. This is a constituency which values its online privacy and free speech. Being digital natives they have grown up with technology. It has not suddenly entered their lives but continues to provide them utility and comfort. They recognise its power and its utility. They are politically active and recognise the benefits of issues such as net neutrality. To them digital rights matter enough to cast their votes.

How can you help?

  1. Input into the digital rights charter: We call on the growing IFF community and all those who passionately feel about digital rights to input in or send us an email on this digital rights agenda. We want your thoughts and suggestions. What is a digital rights issue that would make you cast your vote in favour of a candidate? Tell us. We want to know from you.
  2. Put us in touch with a candidate or a party: If you can assist in any way, to provide support or steering us to any political party, individual candidates; anyone seeking legislative office through the next general elections, please do get in touch.
  3. Become a IFF member: As we gear up for nudging the political process towards the needs of a generation that wields smartphones we take this opportunity to thank IFF's community of supporters, volunteers, donors and members. We are able to continue doing what we love, fighting for your rights only because of your unending affection and support.

So, let's get DIGI with it! Become a IFF member today.