The Technology & Society Initiative

Recent technology-powered advances – artificial intelligence and deep learning ecosystems, drones, the app economy, blockchain and crypto-currencies, and quantum computing, to name a few – have transformed interactions between States and citizens, and relations inter se private entities and individuals. On the regulatory front, governments worldwide face the unenviable task of directing innovation by optimally balancing risks and rewards. When deployed for governance, technology also raises concerns around inequitable access to new solutions, exclusionary possibilities arising from unsuitable architecture, and unreasonable restrictions on individual rights such as privacy and personal liberty. The rise of the data economy and the aspirations of industry players to build network effects and scale rapidly has led to unprecedented consequences for both economic ordering and individual rights.

The above challenges are exacerbated in an emerging economy like India, with problems of weak state capacity to both design timely policies and redress consumer grievances, absence of a robust innovation ecosystem and a well-developed military industrial complex, and a culture of hierarchical and top-down governance and meagre qualitative engagement between the State and other stakeholders. However, addressing these issues in the context of high-technology industries is critical if she needs to build on current levels of investor confidence and the potential offered by a young demographic that can innovate under the right set of background conditions.

Traversing well-chronicled problems to under-explored solutions, this new initiative shall critically examine the various tensions highlighted above, particularly focusing on technology innovations, norm- and market-based responses to the same, and a robust, yet responsible, framework for start-ups, incumbents, and innovators of all hues to build, fail, learn, and grow in India. In this endeavour, it places India’s current legal and regulatory responses, be it in the realm of individual rights, consumer protection, data security, competition, or operational freedom, within the larger context of freedom and ease of innovating here, evaluating various tensions and structuring optimal solutions.