[Opinion] The Economics and Politics of Data by Ashutosh Kumar

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Major difference between 19th-century economy and 21st-century modern economy is the application of consumer/stakeholder’s data use for each transaction, be it in economy or politics. Modern economy has become  data-based economy where from economic prediction to all transactions of business moves on data availability and data management, be it getting Mobile Phone SIM, buying any product online/offline from market or taking admissions in private or government colleges/university, it is all game of data and how you obtain it. As a citizen or person, no one knows apart from a data scientist or data analyst whose data /information is being used by whom which is a real threat to privacy. We all are consumer and at a particular point everyone gives or share his/her information such as AADAHAR Number or mobile phone number for the sake of convenience in getting services, but in era of artificial intelligence and virtual world where exposure on internet opens the gateway of business hub and you become a target stakeholder of number of companies who view a person as absolute customer or vote bank during elections. This starts the game of inquiry calls regarding credit card services, admission in private universities and other lucrative offers of the companies to which somehow every Indian fall prey. Even in elections campaigning use of data to lure voters by acknowledging self-praising work by parties. In such follow-up, you get automated calls of Arvind Kejriwal. So it is clear that from the above that use of data is just like free bird who can fly in any direction and can sit anywhere it wants. Digital economy and internet governance have made data a most vital tool which is extensively used in politics as well as in economy.
Data of the people, by the people and for the people
Recent Economic survey report 2018-19 highlighted the importance and management of data in India as major tool of development in allocating schemes and resources to make India a complete digital cashless economy by declaring data as a public good. Government is focusing on transforming India’s data infrastructure. Creation of digilocker, use of cloud computing for open access to information for its citizen will synchronize the quick action and resolving common issues of citizens. The aim of the government to digitize every information is commendable in the wake of making India 5 trillion economy by 2024.
Data Transparency and Combating Corruption
Linking of Aadhar with pan and seeding it with the bank account is some of the steps which have no doubt eased the service operation and added to financial accountability in checking corrupt practices. But other important rights such as the right to privacy is being ignored in the absence of concrete data privacy infrastructure. Cyber fraud and cybercrimes are increasing, banks account are being hacked  Which is still creating doubts in the minds of citizen forcing us to question, whether digital data use is well protected? How these acts are under widespread operation in the economy in the absence of any data protection regulation can move in the longer run.
Declaring Data As Public Good Requires Data Privacy Law
Economic survey 2018-2019 has highlighted to consider data as a public good on the basis of source that all economic prediction and schemes are dependent on data. The method of data processing and data management serves the interest of the government as well as the public along with the mediation of private sector players. As the business of data is moving the economy. Economic survey 2018-2019 has applauded endeavor of private sector investment companies mentioning Forbes 2017 survey, where 53% of companies are actively using big data to make a decision which shows the importance of data use in every sector if we consider business diplomacy, politics and economy. The entire question of data use and its application is linked to national security and dignity of people of India which also constitute national security. If we declare data as public good without any robust data law regulation which will create chaos leading to identity theft and a threat to privacy.
Road Ahead For Data Governance
Road to data governance and management is not easy as it seems, it has a lot of potential threat to privacy and security. Before declaring the data as public good government has to cautiously and carefully classify and define public data, private data, and personal data in its upcoming data regulation as suggested by Justice BN Srikrishna Report On A Free and Fair Digital Economy Protecting Privacy, Empowering Indians [PDF], it is need of an hour to decide after KS Puttuswamy Judgment, to enact our data protection law as soon as possible  in such manner that their must exist coherence and harmony among individual citizen, private sector and government to secure the data justice concept which seeks for fair and ethical use of data.

Mr. Ashutosh Kumar is Former Legal Officer at Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation, New Delhi. Currently, He is Visiting Professor at Maharishi University of Information Technology and JEMTEC School of Law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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