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‘Digital sovereignty involves autonomy of Indians’ says IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Digital sovereignty also involves the autonomy of Indians as far as ownership of that data is concerned, Ravi Shankar Prasad Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology said on Wednesday. “Therefore that data must be procured through free consent voluntarily acquired. That data must be used for the objective for which it has been collected, and the data fiduciary who procures that data must ensure proper safety and sanctity of that data,” he said. Prasad was speaking at the India Digital Summit, organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Prasad also acknowledged the need for free movement of data across borders, but cautioned that such movement of data should be governed by strict rules:

“I do acknowledge the implicit need for data movement across the globe, to keep the digital commerce intact. But the ground rule of that movement must be very clearly laid down. There should be reciprocity in data sharing, and we should never compromise on our digital sovereignty.” — IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

India should become a big centre of data economy in the future, Prasad said. “When I talk of data economy, I obviously mean data cleaning, data processing, data innovation. India has huge potential to become a data refinery,” he added.

Prasad doesn’t name China while taking about app bans

When asked whether India would take a tough stand against companies of Chinese origin, Prasad said that, “it is neither prudent not desirable for me to take the name of any country, except to highlight the general policy initiatives we are following”. He said that the apps that the government banned over the course of last year were banned due data privacy, national security and national sovereignty concerns. Incidentally, the majority of the apps which were banned were all developed by Chinese companies.

“Therefore, in any exposure of companies national security angle will also be important, be it private or government,” Prasad said. “We don’t want to be vindictive, but we don’t want to compromise on India’s security,” he added.

Prasad doesn’t directly comment on WhatsApp’s privacy policy fiasco

“This is an issue which my department is examining and therefore being the final authority, it will not be proper for me to make a comment,” the minister said when asked about his stand on the controversy around WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy update.

“But, be it WhatsApp, be it Facebook, be it any digital platform, you are free to do business in India, but do it in a manner without infringing upon the rights of Indians. The sanctity of personal communication needs to be maintained. If a doctor is talking to a patient, that is a privileged conversation. If a lawyer is talking to a client, that is a privileged conversation,” Prasad said.

‘Atmanirbhar Bharat doesn’t mean an isolated India’: Prasad

“When we had come to power in 2014, there were only two mobile factories in India, and now that has gone up to 268 mobile factories,” Prasad said. Talking about the government’s latest production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, he said that all major mobile phone companies applied for the scheme and committed to produce mobile phones and equipment worth ₹10 lakh crore in the next 5 years, of which ₹7 lakh crore worth of products would be earmarked for export.

When asked about what the government’s next plans might be for increasing manufacturing in the country, Prasad said:

“India must become the biggest centre of laptop manufacturing, machine to machine (M2M) equipment, tablets etc. India must become the global hub of manufacturing mobile phones, smartphones, laptops, tablets, M2M equipment, and IoT devices.” — IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

He concluded by saying that Atmanirbhar Bharat doesn’t mean an isolated India. “Atmanirbhar Bharat means India as an active participant of the global economy”.

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