US academics raise privacy concerns over 'Digital India' campaign


Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Silicon Valley to promote 'Digital India' campaign, more than 100 prominent US based academics have raised privacy concerns about the project. In a statement, these academics, said 'Digital India' seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally protected rights of citizens.

"We are concerned that the project's potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse", said the statement signed by about 137 academics, a significant majority of whom are of Indian origin. "Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures", the statement said.

"We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions", the two page statement added.

Among prominent signatories to the statement are Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University; Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Director, South Asian Institute, Columbia University and Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University.

The views expressed by these academicians were dismissed by Indian origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, who hailed 'Digital India' and said that India under Modi has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to the country. "Only technology and innovation can enable massive changes that are needed in India. Prime Minister's visit to Silicon Valley is a long overdue acknowledgement that the government in India has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to India," Venktesh Shukla, president of TiE Silicon Valley, told PTI. TiE or The Indus Entrepreneurs is one of the most powerful and prestigious organisations in the Silicon Valley. Top Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs are its members.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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