How will India move with the Internet era?
India, the world's second most populous country, finds itself at a critical juncture when it comes to the state of Internet freedom around the nation.
The relationship between government control and Internet freedom is certainly a complex one. Surveillance programs across the globe have become the subject of much criticism because of the ways that governments can use them to put forth certain agendas. Many feel that there should be a set of international regulations to help promote a free and wider accessed internet.
India takes one step forward…
The Index on Censorship reported that India recently held a national conference led by the private think-tank Observer Research Foundation and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an industry body in the country. The conference featured speakers from a variety of countries around the world including Germany, Russia and Israel, along with speaker from the host nation itself.
The news source noted that at the conference, India's Minister for Communications and Technology, Kapil Sibal said that he was in favor of complete Internet freedom, but that the country also needed to be protected against "cyber gangsters."
India is in an interesting position when it comes to cyberspace usage. There are currently 860 million mobile subscriptions across the nation, and the country has been using the internet to help promote social programs and boost the economy. As one of the world's fastest growing markets, this is certainly a huge opportunity.
And two steps back
However, according to the news source, there are still some sore spots India's Internet policy, especially when it comes to government transparency in its regulation of cyberspace. The news source reported that discussions got particularly heated during the "Privacy and National Security" session during the conference, especially between a government member and representatives from civil society.
These tensions were further illustrated in an op-ed piece published by Live Mint. The source explained that the government will filter out certain websites that it has deemed unfit for its citizens to view. However, instead of saying that the content was blocked, service providers will display a "service not found" error message, leading the public to believe that there has been a technical error rather than government censorship.
The news source explained that these kinds of measures have contributed to India's decline in its international Internet freedom ranking based on findings from Freedom House. This puts the country among Kenya, Armenia and Tunisia on the list.
While the country is certainly conscious of the importance of Internet freedom, India still has many strides to make.