India's Model of Internet Governance: A Highlight

Aditi Sharma,

Junior Associate Editor,

The Indian Learning.


Internet Governance has been a hot gossip of the era. To take control of the global common of ‘cyberspace’ or not is a decision that no one can decide yet. The accepted definition of internet governance is decision-making through rules, regulations, norms, principles over the use of the internet by various governments, civil societies, non-state actors, and private companies. Today, the evolution of the governance method has reached such an extent that it has turned into a complex mechanism, where it has become difficult to standardize the norms. Though the prevalent models of internet governance rule the respective regions today, the debate on the sovereignty of the countries, net neutrality, privacy, internet standards, and Magna Carta of digital rights is still ongoing. This issue was kept as an official diplomatic agenda, for the first time, in the World Summit on the Information Society, 2003–2005. There was an extensive debate regarding the governance of cyberspace and the internet. It resulted in the adoption of the definition of internet governance, as mentioned above. This summit also proposed a model for internet governance. But it led to the emergence of several controversies in the subject. Differentiation of the private-owned model and the government-owned model was the only result of it.

MODELS OF INTERNET GOVERNANCE

Currently, there are five models through which the internet is governed:

  1. Model of Cyberspace and Spontaneous Ordering: The first model moots that the internet is a self-governing realm and does not require active players for its monitoring and governance.

  2. Model of Transnational Institutes and International Organization: The second model highlights that the internet inherently transcends its national borders, and hence the only body that can govern it must be an international organization, and this governance must be based upon international treaties.

  3. Model of Code Thesis and Internet Architecture: The third model moots that communication protocols and software most inherently understand internet architecture, and hence the companies must govern the manner of its operation.

  4. Model of National Governments: The fourth model states that since the subjects of various governments use the internet, these governments must have a hold over the governance of the internet.

  5. The Market and Economics Model: The fifth and the last model advocates that the internet is essential when it comes to driving market regulation and economics. Hence, its regulation must be left to market forces.

Depending upon the nature of the economy and social conditions of a country, they have adopted one of the models accordingly. For example, the United States has adopted the third model, in which the government has granted almost complete control of the governance to tech companies, and it has minimal control over cyberspace. People have free access to information on the internet. The result of adopting this approach was that today, the U.S. based tech companies have spread their market across the globe. Everyone country has some tech support of almost each ‘FAAMG’, the biggest five tech giants, and all of them are U.S. based. The results that this approach has shown clearly indicates that this is the best approach. Various countries adopted a similar approach until China showed its support towards the fourth model and started censoring not just its own tech companies but also almost every western tech company. Moreover, because of its large market, it showed a neck and neck competition to the U.S.

THE INDIAN MODEL: AN EPITOME OF UNIQUENESS

The Indian market has always been tricky for tech companies to read. At the same time, it is also alluring for them because mostly, they have exhausted their own country’s market, and they seek a market in other countries for their product. But India has always put forth various challenges for these companies. Recently, a nation-wide ban on fifty-eight Chinese apps on national security concerns. It was not the first time that this has happened. Almost a year ago, the government formed some restrictive guidelines for the e-commerce operation of Amazon and Flipkart because they wanted to protect the domestic market by restricting the foreign companies operating in India. It shows that the government is keenly observing the tech companies’ actions in our country. It is also a witness that the Indian government has not restricted its strategy of internet governance to any one of the five models.

STRATEGY OF FOREIGN TECH COMPANIES

Since it became challenging for foreign tech companies to endorse their products in the Indian market, they executed a new strategy. They keenly observed the market and found that there is one Indian telecommunication network that dominates the entire country, Jio. Hence, they started investing heavily in it. It led to almost fourteen significant investments in Jio in the last three months, Facebook and Google being the most significant stakeholders.

The story behind building Jio as the dominant industry is quite wary. But it’s Chairman and Managing Director, Mukesh Ambani, says that he has made Jio “moving up the stack from fixed-cost infrastructure to high-margin services”. From providing its customers with India’s first cloud-based video-conferencing application, Jio Meet, to launching the latest innovation enabling holographic video calling, Jio Glasses, the company is aware of how to allure its customers. This “Made in India” initiative of Reliance Industries has also enabled the inclination of the government, which highly promotes Digital India, in taking its initiatives towards making policies for internet governance. Therefore, it is not erroneous if we say that from time to time, this Indian Model of Internet Governance has adopted a mix of all the five approaches, making it a unique model. It has set an example to those who debate over the preeminence of one approach over others.

 

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