- Treating data as commons
- Mere Govt. spending will not help Economy
- A ‘new’ democracy?
Focus: GS-II Governance
- The Gopalakrishnan Committee set up by the government on developing a governance framework for non-personal data recently put out its draft report for public consultation.
- The report’s main purpose is to ensure wide sharing and availability of data in society.
- To ensure that companies share the required data, it was found necessary to develop strong conceptual and legal basis for data-sharing requirements and obligations.
- There are two key infrastructural components of a digital economy: data and cloud computing. The Gopalakrishnan report focuses on the infrastructural element of data.
Digital vertical integration
- The digital age came with useful digital services that everyone lapped up, and many of these services were free or highly subsidised.
- The infrastructure versus over-the-top services distinction becomes important as digital corporations begin to dominate all sectors, including important ones such as education and health.
- That very few corporations have vertically integrated all the digital components involved in delivery of any digital service is the reason for their becoming such huge global monopolies.
- Seven out of the top 10 companies globally today have a data-centric model.
- Such unsustainable concentration of digital power has a significant geopolitical dimension, with complete domination globally of U.S. and Chinese companies.
- At the national level its deleterious effect is of exploitation of consumers and small economic actors, and of strangulating competition and innovation.
What we need
- Infrastructures are to be equitably provided for all businesses. Data have similar characteristics.
- Dominant digital corporations are building exclusive control over any sector’s data as their key business advantage.
- What is needed, however, is to treat data as infrastructure, or ‘commons’, so that data are widely available for all businesses.
- The digital businesses then shift their key business advantage from exclusive access to data to employing available data for devising digital services for consumers’ benefit.
Reducing digital dependence
- The Gopalakrishnan committee takes such an infrastructural view of data.
- Data collected from various communities are considered to be ‘owned’ by the relevant community.
- Such ‘community ownership’ means that the data should be shared back with all those who need it in society, whether to develop domestic digital businesses or for producing important digital public goods.
- With a robust domestic data/AI industry, dependence on U.S. and Chinese companies will reduce.
- It is for these purposes that the Gopalakrishnan committee proposes the concept of ‘community data’.
‘Community Data’ Proposal
- Only the data collected from non-privately-owned sources, from society or community sources, have to be shared when requested for.
- Data from privately owned sources remain private.
- Since a community requires a legally recognisable body to articulate its data ownership claim, the committee introduces the concept of community trustees that could be various bodies representative of the community.
- Data collectors are considered as data custodians that will use and secure data as per the best interests of the community concerned.
- Data trusts are data infrastructures that will enable data sharing, sector-wise, or across sectors, and which can be run by various kinds of third-party bodies.
- The committee recommends a new legislation, because ensuring and enforcing data sharing will require sufficient legal backing.
- A Non-Personal Data Authority is also envisaged to enable and regulate all the envisaged data-sharing activities.
- India is the first country to come up with a comprehensive framework in this area.
- Starting early in this important digital policy and governance area may just provide a formidable first mover advantage for India to acquire its rightful place in the digital world.
-Source: The Hindu
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
In the wake of the economic crisis, many have asked for higher government spending to bail out the economy.
Why can’t the government just spend to revive growth?
- First, in all likelihood, temporary incomes coupled with job/income uncertainty will induce precautionary savings without any impact on growth.
- Second, the fiscal situation was weak even before the pandemic.
- With revenues having cratered, funding of additional expenditure is through higher borrowings.
- Any incremental debt should be seen in the context of future investments being hampered due to current consumption.
- We should note that India’s public debt/GDP will likely reach around 85 per cent and the consolidated gross fiscal deficit to GDP ratio could be around 12.5 per cent this year.
- Assuming gradual fiscal consolidation, these metrics will take quite a few years to revert to pre-COVID levels. Rapid consolidation will adversely impact growth.
Broaden the Consumer Base
- Some economists argue India needs to broaden its consumer base beyond the top 10- 20 per cent of the population to improve long-term growth prospects.
- This cannot happen with regular doses of consumption stimulus but through creating steady and well-paid employment for the bottom and middle segments.
What should be done?
- Ideally, most public spending should be directed towards sectors such as roads, railways, infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities to help rebuild the economy.
- To promote infrastructure creation along with private sector participation, the government needs to charge an economic price for goods and services such as power, irrigation, and public utilities, establish the rule of law with minimal interference in pricing, streamline processes for quick approvals and ensure timely payments to private operators.
- To achieve economic growth of 7-8 per cent that is sustainable over the next decade, the government needs to start addressing some of the traditional sore points such as the large infrastructure deficit, the weak financial sector, archaic land and labour laws, and the administrative and judicial hurdles.
-Source: Indian Express
Focus: GS-II Governance
- The ‘democracy’ that a major part of our world swears by comprises free and fair, multi-party, fixed-term elections based on universal adult franchise in its ideal state.
- A contestant party winning the majority of votes represents the will of the electorate and gets to form the government; others sit in the opposition until the next election.
Complexity beyond simplicity
- The ‘majority of votes’ actually boils down to the majority of seats in the legislature which, most of the time, comes riding a minority of votes. Rarely is a government formed backed by a majority of votes won in a free and fair election.
- Besides the fact that this democracy is far from becoming universal even well into the 21st century, its own life history is just a tiny dot on the canvas of time: short of a hundred years.
- Democracy did not come alone; its accoutrements included guaranteed individual rights and freedoms, free market economy, equality of all citizens, freedom of life and property, etc. — inviolable constituents of capitalism.
- Elections created space for change of governments even as they guaranteed security against challenge to the regime; the challenge could arise only outside of it, through ‘revolutions’, which in turn had much contracted the space even for a change of government and none for a change of regime.
- In the end, most ‘revolutions’ could not escape the dragnet of ‘democracy’, their existential as well as conceptual adversary.
- One of democracy’s primary premises, free market, which ‘revolutions’ had sought to eradicate, is now under threat not from its adversary but from its own internal dynamics.
- The unprecedented concentration of wealth at the top 1% around the world knocks the bottom out of competition in the market, so integral to its freedom.
The principle and the form
- High concentration of wealth is getting to impact the system’s political functioning by replicating the process.
- The hollowing out of this foundational principle of capitalism while retaining its form is also running parallel in the other freedoms, other constituents of ‘democracy’ by hollowing out the substance of even free and fair elections and individual freedoms while retaining the form.
Distortions Injected into the Electoral Process
- Control and misuse of the institutions responsible for carrying out the process;
- The creation of an atmosphere of delegitimisation of dissent or protest vis-à-vis the government by counter-posing the demands of unquestioning patriotism or nationalism to it;
- Using the sentiment of patriotism to circumscribe the dispensation of fair justice;
- The control of the flow of information through the ‘independent’ media;
- Setting up of professionally organised mechanisms for creating and propagating fake news;
- Creating and promoting hatred between communities of people through patronising identity politics and using frenzy in lieu of reason as a mobiliser of votes;
- Meting out the harshest treatment to the most prominent dissenting voices by lodging them in prison on fake charges.
A global scenario
- If this concentration of wealth and political power was the case with one country or society, it could easily be attributed to specific local conditions; but this looks like a more generalised, global scenario: in the U.S., China, Russia, India, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and elsewhere.
- Clearly then, we are witnessing the transformation of the regime of democracy, a systemic transformation from within, from one that had brought us the promise of liberté, egalité, fraternité political, social and economic, to its very opposite: the highest concentration of economic, political and therefore social powers ever in history.
-Source: The Hindu