Ravi Shankar Prasad has already made some key announcements around the data protection bill, intermediary guidelines, Digital Village, 5G, and social media usage after assuming the role of India’s new electronics, IT, Telecom and law minister on 3 June 2019. This running report will document key policy statements/announcements made by the cabinet minister from here on:

June 15, 2019: Data protection to go to Cabinet, and then to Parliament for final approval

The draft data protection bill has been finalised and will be taken to the Union Cabinet soon, after which it will gte final approval from the Parliament, said IT minister RS Prasad at a Confederation of Indian Industry event, as reported by the Economic Times.

  • On movement of data: India may allow data mobility outside India only if other countries do the same. He cautioned that the data sovereignty will be non-negotiable. He said India is generating a lot of data, and while some degree of data movement is important, it will be based on reciprocity and understanding.
  • Data security: India will look into issues of data anonymity and vulnerability, while emphasizing on data security by local and foreign agencies
  • Data is going to become an important area of growth, commerce, and vulnerable area of dispute; the government aims to make India a $1 trillion digital economy in the next 4-5 years
  • Data anonymity should also be kept in focus. Anybody, Indian or international, seeking to indulge in data commerce will have to follow the rules of the game
  • Other nations are awaiting India’s data protection law as many are unhappy with Europe’s GDPR
  • On India’s level of preparedness in dealing with a US-China trade war situation: Prasad said the matter is sensitive and must be observed closely and properly. “Something good will come for India, because globally people trust India’s human resource, open society, and India as a country has great substance and sanctity”
  • On India’s priorities: He said India’s focus should now be on software production, cybersecurity, ecommerce, electronics manufacturing, s,art manufacturing, communication and data analytic. India should be developed as an arbitration hub, so that its dependence on other countries for arbitration reduces.

June 3, 2019: Ravi Shankar Prasad warns social media firms on platform misuse

“While we all respect freedom of speech and expression that is sacrosanct for us and part of the constitutional guarantee, but that is also subject to reasonable restriction,” Ravi Shankar Prasad warned social media firms asking them to maintain constitutional sanctity and guard against misuse of their platforms for acts of terrorism and communalism. The IT Ministry, last year, began work on tightening rules for social media and online companies, for which it held wide public consultations, especially around amendments to Intermediary Liability protections (safe harbor for platforms).

June 1, 2019: Ravi Shankar Prasad’s key priorities: Data protection bill, intermediary guidelines, Digital Villages and 5G

“In IT, we will try to quickly get the data protection bill to the Parliament and also, notifying the intermediary guidelines,” said Prasad after the announcement of the cabinet portfolios. Passing the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, dealing with platform’ concerns about the proposed intermediary guidelines, working on new initiatives geared towards digitisation of India’s villages, and ensuring a smooth 5G rollout will be key priorities for new electronics, IT, telecom, and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The personal data protection bill was expected to be taken up in the last session of Parliament, but that didn’t happen. It is now expected to be tabled in Parliament’s first session under the new government.

Prasad, who has also been given the additional charge of the telecom and law ministries, said that his top priorities for the telecom ministry would be to “nurse the industry back to health” and lay the ground for deploying 5G technology.