Former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani on Wednesday pitched for new regulations to protect and regulate data in India. The country cannot blindly imitate the data policies of the West, he said. Addressing the Carnegie India panel discussion on ‘Who owns personal data: Technology and Policy frameworks’, here on Wednesday, Nilekani said, “We can’t imitate the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the Indian context.” He said the European GDPR was over two decades old and that India needs a new framework in the time of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. “Every second, three more Indians are experiencing the internet for the first time. So, India is getting headlocked into a digital era at a pace never seen before. So, we need to think about what all these global trends mean and importantly what would it mean for India,” he said.
India is rapidly going on the digital mode with 290 million Jan Dhan accounts, 1.16 billion Aadhaar registrations, 350 million smartphones and over one billion phones. However, Nilekani pointed out the stark differences between India and the West. The West was economically rich before it was data-rich. “You had a society with a per capita income of $40,000 and the total ad spend in the US was $207 billion and the per capita ad spend was $591,” he remarked.
Contrasting this with India, where the total spending on ads for a billion people was just $10 billion and the per capita spending is $8, he said: “If your revenue is advertising based, you can’t really go beyond the top 50 million people because they don’t have the purchasing power for the ads, so that model is meant for countries with rich people.
Nilekani felt that the strategic question for the country at this point of time is how to convert the growth of data in such a way it benefits everybody.
On the issue of security of Aadhaar, he reiterated that the biometric citizen identification platform is well protected with established security framework while pointing out that it has implemented best in class global security practices. He expressed hope that the Justice BN Srikrishna committee which is drafting a data protection framework would look at the model for sharing data and managing privacy.