Unlike China, which essentially operates a closed internet with a one-way international access for authorities, India has big stakes in free and open data flows: digital data treatment is a key service activity. Its two largest partners, the United States and the European Union, will prioritize different perspectives: data localization is an essential concern of American platforms; rule of law is an obligatory feature of the EU’s adequacy agreements such as has been concluded with Japan.
A third development is the opening by India’s Competition Commission of an enquiry into Amazon (and Flipkart, now a Walmart subsidiary) on the first day of a much-publicized visit by Jeff Bezos. While the enquiry falls short of accusations of a dominant position, it challenges unfair trade practices and discrimination among partners, from discounts to preferred brand launches and choices between mobile phone sellers.
Without doubt, the move is related to domestic politics. The Confederation of All-India Traders has 60 million members and has heavily supported Narendra Modi. At the other end of India’s economy, businessmen such as Mukesh Ambani, also a Modi supporter now in trouble over the financing of his mushrooming phone network, harbor ambitions for e-commerce: they look at China, which has nurtured its e-commerce giants and largely excluded foreign competitors. We are clearly not there in India – where large American platforms have the same lead as in Europe. This leads to questions, and those asked by the Competition Commission are indeed justifiable.
Digital India is one of the world’s important on-going stories. It is among the most advanced nations in digital governance and inclusiveness. It has many large and small entrepreneurs ready to revolutionize the economy and society. The three issues outlined above also prove every day the subcontinent’s search for its own solutions between several potential models – European, American and Chinese.
Copyright : MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP