An argument for a rubric of conducive public policies alongside development of technology
Just like a knife can be used to slice a fruit as well as to commit a murder, artificial intelligence can be used for improving healthcare, but also for discrimination based on facial features and complexion; 3D printing can make organs as well as guns. Technologies are creating new jobs but also leading to displacing workers. Companies complain of difficulty in finding people with requisite skills, even as millions of graduates (and, even more others) remain jobless.
Narendra Jadhav, prolific author and Rajya Sabha MP, explores these conundrums in New Age Technology and Industrial Revolution 4.0 and argues for development of a rubric of conducive public policies alongside development and deployment of technology.
The book starts with an overview of technologies like AI, augmented reality (AR), additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) and blockchain. Jadhav puts these within the realm of education, healthcare, digital payments, national security and jobs to discern policy aspects pertaining to economic growth, social inequalities and yes, financial services and banking. Thereafter, he puts all these within the Indian context in a rather compressed chapter, barely scratching the surface. Hopefully, the next edition, or the next book, would see a deeper dive within India.
Jadhav has, indeed, benefitted by the excellent research support by the youthful tech-savvy team at The Dialogue, a think tank. However, certain errors and omissions are too obvious to be ignored and these seem to have crept in.
For example, Aadhaar is for establishing identity of Indian residents as per the law and not those of Indian citizens per se. Also, it is odd that while there is ample deliberation over national security, cyber threats, data privacy and surveillance, there is no concomitant reference to Right to Information Act, Public Records Act, National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, Official Secrets Act, leave alone George Orwell’s 1984. The author also eschews some difficult issues like AI ethics, encryption and intermediary liability.
Jadhav identifies data (not just personal) as the big elephant in the room. Though not mentioned in the book, it is a well-known fact that India opted out of the Osaka Track on Digital Economy at the G20 Summit in June 2019, as well as the WTO Joint Statement of e-Commerce in January 2019.
An analysis of the rationale and its implications would have been extremely useful, considering that all the other three BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia and China — joined both these.
Notwithstanding these infirmities, this book is an important piece of scholarship for government officials and parliamentarians as well as for public policy professionals. However, policy apparatus needs to allow, or, enable and encourage inclusive debates and deliberations; transparency and accountability; reviews and revisions. The trillion-dollar question is: are we ready to be in the driver’s seat?
The author is an experienced public policy professional