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No Monopoly Govt will Ensure Digital Inclusion

No Monopoly Govt will Ensure Digital Inclusion
The government will not allow any monopoly over the internet to exist in India even though it upholds freedom of speech, electronics and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.“India believes in freedom (of speech). But I can tell you that any kind of abuse of the platform for extraneous and collateral purposes will not be allowed,” the minister said in an interview to ET, addressing concerns over how social media may have been used to influence the US election results and how India plans to deal with similar situations.
There are “laws in place” to deal with situations like that and the government is in favour of “digital inclusion” but not in favour of “digital monopoly”, Prasad said. “You may recall the whole concept of Free Basics by Facebook — you get through only when you go through my gateway — we had taken a very strong position on that,” said Prasad, who is also minister for law and justice.
Two years ago, the telecom regulator banned discriminatory pricing of data services, including zero-rated plans such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero, even though the social network garnered massive public support for its plan to provide free access to basic Internet services by partnering with telecom companies.
The US government is now seeking detailed information from social media and Internet companies as well as mulling fresh controls on internet firms over allegations of non-state actors influencing the 2016 Presidential election. The next general election in India is scheduled to be held in mid-2019.
Prasad said talks with Apple over manufacturing in India are ongoing. The iPhone maker had asked forconcessions from the government, a demand that was rejected earlier. However, Prasad said discussions were under way at various levels — finance ministry, ministry of electronics and IT and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion —and it is “work in progress”.
“I only want to suggest one thing to Apple: India is a strong digital market, the most prolific, emerging, mobile manufacturing centre. Therefore, it is time Apple must properly explore India and the potential of its mobile market,” he said.Since the NDA government came to power in May 2014, over 100 mobile units have set up shop in the country due to policies that made manufacturing in India attractive for global companies. Prasad said India has its own digital story to offer countries, especially those in the developing world
“India’s story is one of digital inclusion. Technology must be developmental and low-cost, built to bridge the divide. We have shown that through platforms such as Aadhaar which costs $1, over 6 crore authentications are done every day free of cost,” the minister said. He added that many countries are keen to follow India’s technological progress, be it in Africa or Asia.
Prasad said the internet may have been invented by a few, but it is now a global asset that’s used by every country. “Therefore, availability of internet, access to internet and safety and security of internet, all three have to work together,” he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Global Conference on Cyber Space India, being hosted by India, later this week.
Prasad said India has the biggest footprint for companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp. “India is a big digital market of 1.3 billion people, so naturally, India’s voice has to be heard with some degree of respect. I can see the rising clout of India in the digital discourse of the world,” added Prasad.
The cyber chiefs of over two dozen countries are expected to attend the conference and better coordination among nations is one of the main items on the agenda.A safe internet will also benefit the strategic security of nations since the next wars will be fought over the cyberspace. 
The Economic Times, New Delhi, 21th November 2017


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