India’s 2024 General Election: A tech policy outlook

A new paradigm is grounds for policymakers and stakeholders to engage in more dialogue, writes Vivan Sharan.

By  Storyboard18Jun 10, 2024 8:21 AM
India’s 2024 General Election: A tech policy outlook
The next phase of public policy making promises to be exciting and consultative – an excellent time to tune in to the twists and turns and map technology’s real-world impact, writes Vivan Sharan of Koan Advisory Group in a special column.

The 2024 General Election results have revealed a divided mandate suggesting a period of adjustment for the tech industry. With the dynamics of coalition politics, BJP allies and state governments will now have a greater say in policymaking. And this new paradigm is grounds for policymakers and stakeholders to engage in more dialogue.

Here's a quick outlook on the implications for the tech sector:

Industrial schemes

Schemes such as the next phase of Performance Linked Incentives (PLI) for smartphones and the demand-side subsidies for electric vehicles may face some uncertainties. The continuation of such incentive schemes requires industry advocates to push intently, because they require a whole of government consensus.

Ministry consolidation in limbo

Any future attempts to consolidate line ministries in the spirit of ‘minimum government’ (sic) might falter as alliance partners are accommodated across all tiers of government. The BJP had done away with seven appellate tribunals citing similar grounds via the Finance Act of 2017, and merged them with others.

A more decentralised scenario provides tech companies more flexibility, allowing them to navigate between the sometimes-competing agendas of different line ministries and regulators. This is arguably also in the public interest since domain specialisation takes time to cultivate within government bodies.

More voices to join discussion on gaming regulation

The new government will need to pack in many different voices before wide consensus on legal online betting and gaming may be reached. Regional parties will play a key role in the new government, and there will be healthy competition among them to weigh in on tech laws. This includes laws that impact the gaming ecosystem indirectly, such as the regulation of betting and gambling, a state subject.

The Prime Minister’s Office previously held the reins on gaming regulation, but now the field may open up to broader stakeholder involvement. Gaming companies, new cabinet ministers, and freshly-appointed bureaucrats will hold sway, and a united front from the gaming industry could lead to effective self-regulation or co-regulation.

Crypto regulation to follow international trends

The Ministry of Finance is leading inter-ministerial efforts to create a template for crypto regulation, an activity that is likely to continue despite changes in government. This is because India is a key stakeholder in the G20 process on crypto regulation, and the new G20 president, Brazil, is proactive in its push to drive international consensus on the issue.

Smooth sailing for data protection rules

Initially part of the 100-day agenda, the data protection rules are likely to pass unchallenged. However, implementation might be delayed due to a natural reordering of priorities within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, based on the next cabinet minister’s vision for digital markets. Tech companies may advocate against technical challenges that may arise via the rules, such as the inclusion of electronic records and dashboards to manage user consent and data breach notifications.

Key bills and regulations remain unfinished business

The BJP used its majority to swiftly pass critical tech laws in Parliament. In 2023, the Modi government passed the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill in 53 minutes. Similarly, the Telecommunications Bill was passed when two-thirds of the Opposition was missing in Parliament. The incoming government will have to adopt more deliberative methods.

The contentious Broadcast Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, which errantly clubs streaming services with television within the definition of broadcasting, may face more resistance in parliament if not reformed.

Similarly, the finalisation and passage of the draft Digital Competition bill, seems unlikely without a clearer justification rooted in the public interest. It remains controversial due to its broad and prescriptive nature, garnering support from narrow protectionist lobbies only.

The proposed Digital India act (DIA), still a work in progress, championed by the erstwhile Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, is already delayed due to design challenges. Without a strong internal champion, the DIA may not resurface for another year or two.

Meanwhile, we can expect amendments to the Information Technology Rules 2021, especially since tougher social media regulation has wide political support.

And finally, content blocking procedures and other aspects of telecom rules need thorough deliberation and parliamentary sanction to avoid overreach and ensure all checks and balances.

On the whole, the next phase of public policy making promises to be exciting and consultative – an excellent time to tune in to the twists and turns and map technology’s real-world impact.

Vivan Sharan is Partner at Koan Advisory Group. Views expressed are personal.


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First Published on Jun 10, 2024 8:21 AM

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