‘Let’s stop getting dictated and start dictating the terms instead.’

New Delhi:Experts are of the opinion that centuries of foreign rule have “taken away” India’s sovereignty and “the pursuit of supremacy” and the next area of competition will be over data or information. Though a majority is now aware of the immense potential that data holds, more awareness needs to be brought around the issue of data sovereignty in India.

At the launch of his book Data Sovereignty: The Pursuit of Supremacy at the Constitution Club here on 4 June, Vinit Goenka said: “First they ruled us with guns and swords, then they dictated terms to us on oil, and now they’ll come after us with data.” The book has been authored by other eminent personalities, including Lt. Gen. V.M. Patil, Lt. Gen. Dr. D.B. Shekatkar, Lt. Gen. Vinod Khandare, Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia, and Jaydeva Ranade, former R&AW officer and Bharat Panchal of NPC.

“Data sovereignty” is the way forward for the country given the fact that India has been way behind in adopting policies, especially in the view of the scale of the IT industry and economy and data privacy.

With the onset of the 21st century, following the pursuit of supremacy with military might and oil, the latest is “data colonization”, Goenka said. Touching upon military colonisation and energy colonisation, Goenka explained the relevance of data as the new oil—“whoever controls data, controls everything”.

Goenka also said that data localisation involved organisations hosting their data centres within the country.

“As far as privacy is concerned, we can adopt laws from other countries to protect data here. Furthermore, the number of data breaches is negligible in our country. India being a country with 1.3 billion people generates data that is equivalent to one-fourth of the world’s data. Therefore, those who need access to this data can follow the rules, regulations, and laws of this country,” Goenka added.

Stressing upon Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology of future, the experts said that many companies are rapidly working on innovations that can be extrapolated to and applied to data centre. While organisations will need to modernise their approach to data management and maintain the right balance between control and accessibility, they also need to consider techniques for managing and unlocking the value of information within their enterprise.

Touching upon the pending Data Protection Bill that mandates data localisation, Sunil Ambekar, National Organising Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), said, “Military attacks can be easily understood by us. But the silent proxy war on data is more difficult to comprehend. Similarly, Naxalites and the Naxal war can be understood, but urban Naxals are hard to understand… They say that they make the whole world a small village… but the power to attack has grown.”

In his continuous efforts to ensure data sovereignty, Goenka said he expected to encourage policymakers and initiate interactions with bureaucrats on the issue to form the right policies that restrict the movement of data outside the precincts of India. “Let’s stop getting dictated and start dictating the terms instead,” Goenka said.