February 24, 2024

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Digital India Act: Building a Trustworthy Digital Realm

Image credit: Press Information Bureau

The Minister of State of Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, recently held the Digital India Dialogues outlining the principles of the Digital India Act (DIA). This forthcoming legislation is designed to replace the current IT Act and establish a robust legal structure that safeguards the rights of digital nagriks (citizens). The first draft of the Act will be released in early June.

According to Chandrasekhar, with India soon expected to have 1.3 billion people accessing the internet, it is crucial for digital citizens to approach the online realm without fear or mistrust, particularly as numerous government services transition to digital platforms. The Act has placed significant emphasis on the principles of safety and trust, which have “a huge section in the DIA”. The Minister also expressed concerns regarding the weaponisation of misinformation and disinformation, particularly with the added challenge of AI-driven deep fakes and stressed the need to address these issues effectively.

During discussions with stakeholders, the Minister addressed various concerns and provided clarifications on several issues. Regarding intersecting regulation by sectoral regulators, the DIA will enable sectoral regulators like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), and other ministries to establish additional safeguards. The aim is to harmonise different laws, and the input of sectoral regulators will be sought in this process.

In terms of regulating emerging technologies, the focus will be on assessing potential user harm caused by AI. The objective is to ensure that emerging technologies do not pose any harm to digital citizens. For blockchain and Web 3.0, the industry will be encouraged to propose guardrails. The intention is not to impose bans on innovations unless they are linked to user harm. The goal is to lead in the fields of Web 3.0 and AI while defining appropriate guardrails. The Minister expressed a preference to avoid creating additional compliance layers through excessive regulation.

Regarding compliance for startups, the Minister explained that in all recent laws, such as the CERT-In directions released in April 2022 or the upcoming Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, startups have either been provided exemptions or an extended period for compliance.

The proposed law will be an important pillar of the Global Standard Cyber law framework that the government is formulating to catalyse India’s digital economy goals. The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, National Data Governance Framework policy, the recent amendments to the IT Rules, CERT-In guidelines will form the other elements of this framework.

The Digital India Dialogue session witnessed the participation of a wide array of stakeholders from the technology ecosystem, including industry associations, startups, IT professionals, think tanks, and legal experts. The session brought together approximately 300 stakeholders, with 125 individuals attending in person and 175 participating virtually. A similar dialogue was held in Bengaluru in March this year. These consultations are in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s consultative approach to law and policy-making. This is the first time that the government held consultations on the principles of the Bill.

Digital India is an ambitious initiative launched by the government with the vision of transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. It aims to leverage the power of technology to bridge the digital divide, empower citizens, and enhance the efficiency and transparency of government services.


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