A brutal regime of extraction from the poor is evident in unregulated fin-tech; bodies of migrants, women and refugees are becoming datafied points of surveillance(Shutterstock)
A brutal regime of extraction from the poor is evident in unregulated fin-tech; bodies of migrants, women and refugees are becoming datafied points of surveillance(Shutterstock)

Get off the big data partnership bandwagon

China, Singapore and Canada are busying themselves with the necessary governance frameworks and investments for creating a new public architecture for digital intelligence, while countries like India are yet to apply themselves in this regard
By Anita Gurumurthy
UPDATED ON MAR 10, 2018 05:41 PM IST

The Internet is a leveller, or so we imagined. Back in 2003, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in its Declaration of Principles, expressed a shared commitment to build a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society”. Partnerships, technology transfer and capacity building were seen as crucial for promoting global participation in the information society.

Little did we anticipate then that the Internet, a civilisational innovation with the potential to bring the world closer, would become a handmaiden of transnational capitalism. The lingua franca of the Internet today is about ‘free flow of data’, a flow on which the analytics for advertising that drive digital capitalism are predicated.

In a matter of a decade, the Internet paradigm has traversed a huge distance. From trade of physical goods (ecommerce) to that in cultural goods and cutting edge services such as cloud computing and software, the digital economy has come a long way. We have seen the power of platforms — Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the GAFA foursome — unleash market control that is unprecedented. While these companies have grown their own product ecosystems through Artificial Intelligence, monopsonies (single buyers) like Amazon are now drawing upon machine learning to offer digital intelligence services to less tech-savvy enterprises to implement AI technology. Through a combination of mobile phone networks, Internet of Things and cloud technologies, a handful of digital corporations are attempting to build intelligence infrastructure that is tipped to transform society in a profoundly systemic way.

With the exception of China, developing countries in the global south have been rather tardy in preparing for, or lacking in, the infrastructural, financial, knowledge and institutional wherewithal to enter into the new era of digital intelligence. This gap — often referred to glibly as the digital divide — has direct consequences for development in the digital age, with a new dependence on foreign corporations.

The ideas of technology transfer and capacity building in international development have proven to be a decoy for dominant economic actors in development to push market liberalisation. Corporation has always been the centrepiece in the political economy of ‘technology transfer’. For instance, in climate change agreements, technology transfers have implied liberalisation of foreign investment flows, compromising traditional knowledge systems and livelihoods in developing countries.

As the tour de force of the information age, the digital corporation finds new legitimacy in the soft diplomacy of the sustainable development goals. Partnerships (read foreign capital) are seen as key to the means of implementation, and ‘data for development’ pegged as the frontier issue.

An a priori conception of the digital as a market good lends ‘partnerships for data’ a neo-liberal validity for blatant marketisation. Smart cities are being crafted through corporate takeover of city data; a brutal regime of extraction from the poor is evident in unregulated fin-tech; bodies of migrants, women and refugees are becoming datafied points of surveillance; private billionaire philanthropy is proposing remote controlled micro-chip implants as innovations in female contraception; public education systems are being sold cloud software as management suites to monitor school level performance; and agriculture input markets are being manipulated by corporate behemoths controlling micro-local data on seeds and soil.

With every new technology, narratives of human progress have held out a new optimism. In the digital context, there is perhaps no more reason to be pessimistic than in previous technological paradigms. However, ‘data for development’ frameworks obscure the foundational question about social value: Is the data partnership contributing to sustainable development in the sense of wellbeing of life and livelihoods? Is it delivering value for individual and collective needs and rights rather than for public or private finance alone?

Current trajectories of the network-data world foreclose the possibility of seeing data and intelligence as non-market, social goods. The misplaced nomenclature of the ‘black box’, used in the case of algorithms, perpetuates the myth of ungovernability, making digital participation for the majority inherently restrictive and exploitative.

It is noteworthy that countries like China, Singapore and Canada are busying themselves with the necessary governance frameworks and investments for creating a new public architecture for digital intelligence, while countries like India are yet to apply themselves in this regard. The promised revolution will need the future proofing of digital technology for equity and social justice. A new global compact rooted in principles for an egalitarian Internet, data justice and algorithmic accountability is in order.

Anita Gurumurthy is executive director, IT for Change

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)

Where are India’s women leaders?

By Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Steven Walker
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
Women are less involved when it comes to participation in campaigns and contacts with public officials. Women candidates also have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates. There are also different societal expectations from political leaders of different genders
Close
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is a looming epidemic — of loneliness. Take it seriously

By Saumyajit Roy
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
India has a real opportunity to showcase solutions to a global audience towards using the best of tech and expertise in reducing loneliness. While a dedicated ministry for loneliness may just be the impetus, all we need is to look for are basic ways and means to help people who are on the brink of feeling lonely.
Close
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)

Scratching the surface hasn’ helped. It is time to strike at the core issues

By VS Pandey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • India's administrative structure led by All India Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) adopted an approach of 5% vs 95%.
Close
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)

Disengagement will not lead to friendship

By Jayadeva Ranade
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Notwithstanding the recent exchanges between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers and military commanders at the border, India-China relations remain at a critical stage
Close
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)

Provide data on the education of Muslims

By John Kurrien
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
Monitoring the educational progress of Muslims was hamstrung by the absence of official data, leading to their downward spiral that went unnoticed for decades
Close
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The pandemic has added to the urgency of protecting wildlife

By Dipankar Ghose
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:14 PM IST
Wildlife conservation needs to be prioritised, and development plans at country, state and district levels need to take cognisance of wildlife needs
Close
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)

The India-US tech partnership decade

By Janmejaya Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:30 PM IST
US support enabled China’s high-growth trajectory. But the rift between the two offers India an opportunity
Close
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)

Who is stirring the caste cauldron in Karnataka?

By Venkatesha Babu, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:08 PM IST
  • The Karnataka government has blamed the opposition for fishing in troubled waters by trying to take political advantage of the agitations but Yediyurappa may have to look within.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP