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View from India: ‘Data is renewable energy and is also recyclable’

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Starting from a point of almost zero data, India has rapidly emerged as a data-rich economy, with a backbone of technology. The country began its data storage journey with Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identity number obtained by residents based on their biometric and demographic data.

Data is the new economic growth driver and will fuel technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) blockchain and machine learning (ML). “Data is renewable energy and is also recyclable, but the ownership of data is critical,” said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon.

Data on its own has no value, per se, but its potential can be realised depending on the manner in which it is utilised. For instance, the value quotient of financial data gains meaning and higher traction if the data is monetised properly. The quality and scale of data needs to be gleaned for desired outcomes. Businesses can meet the required targets using real-time data. Likewise, e-commerce data offers companies insights into the lives of the consumer.

The government can leverage citizen data to develop the economy through a multi-stakeholder approach. “Multilateral architecture for global data governance facilitates the exchange of data between nations. A core team comprising policy makers, think tanks, technocrats and the state-central government representatives should put together the multilateral architecture,” explained Ashwath Narayan C.N., deputy chief minister of Karnataka and minister for higher education, information technology, biotechnology, and science and technology in the Government of Karnataka (GoK).

Data has begun to move beyond national boundaries. The access to data and sharing of data between countries is on the rise. India can capitalise on this opportunity as it has the bandwidth to build the digital backbone of many economies. This digital bridge will help build geo-political links.

The challenge lies in safeguarding the data. Security, economy and technology are the three fundamentals that comprise the data framework. “Every country should be self-reliant in data in terms of scale and privacy. We need a universal statutory declaration of digital rights. This is required to protect the individual rights in the digital world,” pointed out TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education Services and co-founder and chairman of Aarin Capital.

Many of the disruptive technologies are driven by data, which will determine the trade of the future. All tenets of the digital world will translate into data flow. What’s required is a skilled workforce to augment the flow. GoK is preparing to boost the digital economy by meeting the upcoming demands of the industry. GoK plans to have a regulatory sandbox for further strengthening the ecosystem of tech startups. A legal framework will be in place to encourage startups to test their products before it goes live. When it becomes operational, Karnataka will be the first state in India to have such a framework.

The startup ecosystem is getting more impetus as the Karnataka Innovation Authority is being established. This is to promote the latest technology. There will be a vision group comprising stakeholders from industry and academia to provide the necessary prop for the startup ecosystem.

“In the next five years, it is forecasted that the market for the transportation based data will be over $75bn. By 2025, around 20 per cent of the data will belong to data sets,” added Shaw.

Clearly the prospects within this unfold enormous opportunities. Innovation is what incentivises intellectual property (IP) and IP is an integral part of monetising data.

Besides IP, mobile technology is also fundamental to the growth of data. “Mobile apps have a role to play in the case of vernacular data. This can become effective only when regulators enable apps to secure data across vernaculars. Besides that, governments can tap facial-recognition software for large-scale commercial benefit,” said Evan Feigenbaum, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In the coming years, India’s personal data protection bill is expected to impact business, innovation and regulation in India and around the world. There will be issues concerning data localisation; restriction on cross-border data flows; alternative data access mechanisms for law-enforcement, and taxation of data.

These insights were shared at Carnegie India’s fourth annual Global Technology Summit (GTS). The event was supported by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Government of Karnataka.

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