India’s priority to become self-reliant has been more evident than ever under the Narendra Modi-led government during the last nine years.
With deeper penetration of Aadhar-linked governance in India, wider acceptance of UPI-based digital payments across the world, and an ever-increasing global userbase of microblogging platform Koo, India0-based technology companies are rising. India has also taken firm steps toward fighting Big Tech companies and their monopoly over global operations and hence, international influence over policymaking.
It is hardly a surprise that foreign media is trying its best to undermine the Indian efforts by calling it a surveillance and control mechanism of the Indian government, rather than seeing it as an achievement of Indian technocrats. The advancing technologies that are seen as surveillance tools, have enabled India to cater to contemporary essentials like digital payments, social media, and unique identification to one and all. Recently, one such article was published by Reuters. The article titled ‘India push for digital sovereignty risks more online surveillance’, written by Rina Chandran of Thomson Reuters Foundation is published under the section titled ‘Analysis’; but it is nothing but subtle anti-India propaganda of the west-obsessed media afraid of the rise of a self-reliant new India.
The article was published on 6th February 2023, which is almost two years after the Nigerian president’s verified account appeared on the Indian microblogging website Koo. It is notable that the Nigerian government blocked Twitter in 2021 for removing a post by the country’s president Muhammadu Buhari. It was a significant accomplishment for Koo, which had started with an emphasis on Indian languages.
Koo has no conflict with the Indian authorities and is at ease with the compliances related to social media regulations in India. On the other hand, in the last few years, its larger rival Twitter found itself in an increasingly heated debate with Indian authorities over its content filtering practices. The article also took cognizance of India’s original mobile operating system Bhar OS which is seen as a potential contender to replace Google’s Android OS, one of the most widely used operating system for mobile devices.
Allegations of surveillance and control against India’s government
After hailing India’s leap in technology and allied services, the foreign media house arrived at its core agenda of undermining the foundation of a new self-reliant India against the Big Tech nexus. It says, “India’s push for digital sovereignty will have enormous consequences for the country’s 1.4 billion population, tech experts and rights groups warn, with a potential increase in state surveillance and tightening of freedoms in online spaces.”
Quoting Indians to make it appear authentic
To support this claim, and make it appear like an authentic piece of information, the article also quotes a few Indians. One such name is Prateek Waghre, policy director at the digital rights organization – Internet Freedom Foundation. Waghre says, “Digital sovereignty has roots in the intent to control, and is tied to nationalism. There are economic elements too, as data is valuable. The government has more leverage with local companies, which may not have the option of not complying – and that raises the concern that they won’t stand up to surveillance.”
Waghre further says, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which spurred many tech firms to sever ties with the former, was a wake-up call for many countries including India. It raised the question: can this happen to us tomorrow – and how do we protect ourselves? China is looked on rather enviously for standing up to big tech and creating its own ecosystem, and many countries have been trying to create something similar for years. Russia’s invasion only precipitated the process.”
Know other feats achieved by India that the west is annoyed with
The article also mentions DigiLocker, a cloud-based platform for storing and sharing documents – as well as the Aadhaar digital ID scheme, real-time payments system UPI, and MapmyIndia, a digital maps maker. However, the Reuters report has forgotten to mention CoWin portal – a technology India provided many other countries to monitor the COVID-19 spread and vaccinations.
The article also raises concern over data access compliances by the Indian government. However, Indian entrepreneurs look comfortable with the policies. Aprameya Radhakrishna, Koo’s co-founder and chief executive has dismissed such allegations. He said, “We have never faced a situation related to control from any government. Our platform has transparent and strict disclosure processes. Indian technologies are going global because India is known for its excellent engineering talent and a lot of these products are sophisticated and relevant to global markets.”
Essentially, the western world is on the cusp of witnessing major geopolitical changes in Asia and it is losing control over the new developments with every passing day. With India, which is practically one-sixth of humanity, steering its Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign at full throttle, it is time for every Indian to come together and stand tall and firm against such attempts to undermine Indian technology.