Coming back to present, Sibals act and convening a hurried press conference on a holiday at his residence where reporters sat on the grass, is no different in context and content than that of Swarajs more than 10 years ago. Then also nobody had noticed that inane website and today also the majority had not noticed (or ignored) the objectionable and blasphemous content that riled Sibal. Then also the telecom sector had important issues to be addressed and today the scenario is no different.
But since Sibal has decided to regulate the social media networks and make them adhere to the cultural ethos of India, one hopes his actions would not stop at the net only but go far beyond. After all, internet penetration in India is still lowat 112 millionand this also is not the number of connections but users! Come to social networking sites, the number is even lower, at around 25 million. Move beyond the net in any city and go on to alleys, lanes, public transport, trains, and public lavatories and the walls are littered with vulgar and explicit graffiti. They are blasphemous many a time and the caricatures drawn at these places make it clear theres plenty of talent out there when it comes to art. But nobody pays attention to this graffiti. Now that the minister plans to crack down on Facebook, perhaps the graffiti writers will get busier! Maybe district level officials will take a leaf out of Sibals booksthat despite their punishing workloads, theyll focus on keeping the cities walls clean.
The minister is smart enough to know, and even his officials will advise him, that merely checking such websites wont do. After all, technology is two steps ahead of regulation. If such sites are regulated, the mischievous lot would move to the e-mail sites such as Gmail and Yahoo! and even SMSs via mobile phones. Imagine if the same kind of stuff Sibal is trying to check moves on via MMSs or SMSs and in mails. To check them, Sibal should next ask the mobile operators to regulate such an exchange of messages and video clips and, if any such mails are sent, the website should have firewalls to block them! Pakistan recently did this, and came up with 1,600 objectionable words that needed screening. On a separate note, the move will throw up all manner of opportunities since most technical experts believe it is not feasible to do the kind of screening the minister wantsIndias enterprising software industry has just got another challenge to rise to!
Last but not the least, given the minister is an expert in counterfactual mathematicsremember his zero-loss theory on 2G and the colossal loss the NDA caused by moving from upfront licence fee to revenue sharehe should set up a team to examine the loss to the exchequer by subscribers violating rules governing telephony. Until some years ago, internet telephony was banned in India but people were using computers to make calls overseas. Surely this would have caused losses to the government Internet telephony is still partially allowed, meaning while computer-to-computer calls can be made, a call from a computer to a mobile or a landline phone cannot be made. Still, people make such calls by using all manner of gadgets freely available in the market. Now, Sibals ministry wants to remove this restriction but there are issues of level-play field in terms of payment of licence fee, etc, so obviously theres a case of revenue loss which should be looked into.
One hopes the minister will take a holistic look at the problems afflicting us!