Tech policy to be predictable; privacy bills, focus on local internet and hardware ecosystem
Facebook, Google, Twitter and ByteDance are expected to take a hit from personal data protection bill.
Technology giants Facebook, Google, Twitter and ByteDance are expected to take a hit from the personal data protection bill, which regulates the processing of individuals’ personal data. They are also likely to be impacted by the proposed amendment to the Information Technology Act’s intermediary guidelines, which weaken legal protections given to technology companies against content hosted on their platforms.
“It’s going to be a predictable 5 years on where the technology policy is moving,” said Nikhil Narendran, Partner at Trilegal. “The government wants more companies to be incorporated in India, so it can have more regulatory control. It also has a tax, content and data localisation angle to it. They will act with brute force on it.”
The debate around technology policy has been highly charged over the last two years, as the government drafted laws to control Internet content, store critical data within the country and to compulsorily incorporate foreign firms locally.
The government aims to increase compliance with local laws and push foreign Internet firms to pay more taxes locally.
“The good thing is predictability — we've seen what their policies/politics in the previous term were. So, no real surprises I imagine. What we would like to see is better policymaking processes, with stakeholders' inputs constantly, and not having different ministries and regulators take different approaches to the same issue," said Anirudh Rastogi, Managing Partner at Ikigai Law.
He added that apart from the imminent introduction of the personal data protection bill in the parliament there will be government action on regulating online content and platform governance.
While Facebook and Google have opposed the government’s move on local incorporation and data storage, Indian firms including Reliance Jio and Paytm have supported it.
"Streamlining the information flow from the Technology Companies to the Law Enforcement Agencies for prevention and investigation of crimes involving technology platforms," said Tejas Karia, Partner Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.
One of the demands of the Indian government that remains unfulfilled is getting WhatsApp to help law enforcement to trace messages to senders. WhatsApp has said end to end encryption makes it difficult to trace messages.
“As the same government has come to power, there is likely to be an impetus to create a level playing field for Indian businesses in the data driven economy. The government will push forward on national security from a technology point of view,” said Gowree Gokhale, Partner at Nishith Desai Associates. “It is clear that the focus on digital infrastructure building will continue.”
In February, the government unveiled a new electronics policy to boost local manufacturing, including exports. It has given special incentives for large technology projects, including setting up semiconductor manufacturing facilities in India. The aim is for the sector to generate $400 billion in revenue and over 10 million jobs by 2025. The government could also take advantage of the ongoing US-China trade dispute to woo global firms to manufacture electronics goods in India.
“There is pressure by the US on China, which may push many US, Korean and Taiwanese companies to set up electronic manufacturing units in India,” said Rajesh Ram Mishra, President of the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association. “We are pushing for incentives for manufacturing Printed Circuit Boards in India and encourage more design-led manufacturing in the country.”
The government is also expected to step up focus on Digital India — adopting technology to improve citizen’s access to government services; in education, and creating a skilled workforce that helps Indian IT services firms.