India Can’t Govern Big Tech Companies In Isolation, Says Nitin Pai Of Takshashila


India, along with the rest of the world, is facing the challenge of trying to regulate big tech companies. But it cannot formulate policies in isolation and must work in tandem with its economic allies and regulations must be interoperable, according to Nitin Pai of Takshashila Institution.

India should ideally start dialogues with its closest economic partners on governing big tech, Pai, the co-founder and director at the independent centre for research and education in public policy, told BQ Prime.

The QUAD—a bloc that includes countries such as the U.S., Australia, Japan and India—is a good place to start, he said, while speaking on the sidelines of the Law, Economics and Policy Conference, organised by the Institute of New Economic Thinking, at Pune’s Flame University.

Big tech companies are under scrutiny the world over for alleged anti-competitive and anti-consumer behaviour. Incidents like the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal have drawn attention to some of the darker aspects of a world connected by social media.

India, too, has set up parliamentary committees that have been tasked with grilling companies like Inc., Google Llc., Netflix Inc., and Microsoft Corp. for alleged anti-competitive practices.

For years now, governments have struggled with making comprehensive regulations to govern big tech companies. That’s because of the way these companies function: they usually have their primary offices and most of their workforce registered in jurisdictions outside where they operate.

But, Pai doesn’t expect this to be a major stumbling block.

“Very few people know that the International Telecommunications Union is older than the United Nations. The countries of the world were agreeing on how to govern telecom companies and telecom as a service, a full 80 years before the United Nations was formed,” he said.  

It has been highlighted that governing these companies is also challenging because of rapidly changing technology. New products and services emerge outside of the framework of existing laws and can impinge on a customer’s rights.

“We’re looking at the manifestations of a very complex phenomenon. In reality, it is not that hard. Because what you’re essentially doing is, you’re trying to see how to govern big companies in consonance with your constitutional values,” said Pai.

Ultimately, lawmakers have to focus on ensuring that the companies involved have fidelity towards the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. For example, the Right To Privacy is guaranteed and that, Pai said, is a good place to start.


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