A cross-industry coalition of companies, The Global Data Alliance, was launched on January 22 to advocate for policies that encourage cross-border data flow (CBDF) and prevent data localisation requirements. The organisation is an alliance of companies from industries ranging from payment services to electronics and includes members such as American Express, Panasonic, Mastercard, Verizon, etc. It is administered by The Software Alliance (BSA), an advocacy group for the global software industry headquartered in Washington, DC, (with presence in India) which considers data flow across borders “essential to the 21st-century global economy”.

“The Alliance supports policies that help instill trust in the digital economy while safeguarding the ability to transfer data across borders and refraining from imposing data localisation requirements that restrict trade.” — The Global Data Alliance

India’s stance on free flow of data

In June 2019, India boycotted the “Osaka Track” at G20, a framework for promoting cross-border data flow with enhanced protections for intellectual property, personal information, and cybersecurity for reportedly undermining multilateral negotiating processes based on consensus-based decision-making in global trade negotiations, and denying policy space regarding digital economy to developing countries. Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, had also opposed the Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) at the G20 Ministerial Meeting. DFFT, proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in 2019, aims to eliminate restrictions on cross-border transfer of information by electronic means, including personal information, and storing data in foreign servers.

While India has relaxed its data localisation requirements in the latest draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill, India’s draft e-commerce policy proposes strict regulation of cross-border data flows, locating computational facilities within India to ensure job creation, and setting up a “data authority” for issues related to sharing of community data.

  • In December 2019, Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s national co-convener Ashwini Mahajan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for data localisation and digital nationalism as “the need of the hour”. He also encouraged support and promotion of Indian alternatives of payment gateways, social media platforms, and service aggregators.