Minister for Communications and IT Kapil Sibal said at the World Economic Forum on India that the government had no intention of putting curbs on or regulating the internet. He advocated a global agreement to control misuse of the fast-growing medium in the country.
“You can’t control the internet. It is extremely significant for India. Internet is evolving. As we move forward, we will be identifying the challenges. A collaborative and consultative process is required to move together,” said Sibal on the requirement to put in place rules and regulations for tackling crime on the internet.
Sibal in the end stressed the need for a global agreement to enforce laws on the internet.
He pointed out that currently people were not understanding the law associated with cyber space correctly, at a session on ‘India’s Paradox: Thriving Press, Stifling Internet’. “If you know something is wrong, you should not put it on the internet. Since 2010, we have not done anything to regulate the internet and we are the ones accused of controlling it. All these are bailable offences,” said Sibal.
Senior journalist Madhu Trehan, however, disagreed with him and said the government had the most powerful switch to switch off the internet and mentioned the recent incidence when police took action against a person for tweeting about a Central minister’s son. “A minister’s son has a tweet against him and the wheel starts rolling,” she said.
Sibal countered this by saying that most governments had such powers to protect citizens but there could be poor implementation and added that he was contemplating a round table on the issue.
Kris Gopalakrishnan, Executive Co-Chairman, Infosys, said when it came to 21st century we had to look back and think what kind of policies we need. “India has the opportunity to lead every possible community. Some restrictions will come. Some amount of control and restriction has to be there,” said Gopalakrishnan.
Vineet Nayar, Vice-Chairman and CEO, HCL Technologies, stressed there was a huge amount of opportunity for ecommerce on the internet. “We have rules for the physical world. Deterrence has to be there. If we really want to convert the internet into an opportunity, then we will have to devise laws and rules to guide it with accountability,” said Nayar.
“All we want to do is leverage the internet to move forward and we should encourage people to use it for good,” he added.
Sibal summed up the government’s intentions on utilising the internet: “The internet is perhaps the only medium through which we can empower people in India. We must not lose this opportunity. We should allow free flow of internet. Government should not force laws. It should be a consultative process. We have to build the virtual world in a manner in which civil society and government will be working together. Empowering is the way forward.”
Gopalakrishnan said, “We have unleashed this technology power without understanding what this means. Internet has suddenly exploded and it doesn’t understand national boundaries and this is why we need to relook at the policies and rules. That requires discussion and then we will have to leverage the power of the internet.”
Nayar followed with an interesting observation. “Internet is an adolescent child. Some amount of freedom and some deterrents are required. Internet and mobile commerce go hand in hand. We have to understand the kind of crimes that can happen in the digital world, and create deterrents. Alternate policing for the digital world is required.”