Wrap Up 2023: Policies & developments which impacted technology and startups
2023 has seen significant developments in the realm of tech policy, where the clash between cutting-edge advancements and ethical considerations have sparked debates that will shape our digital future. The decisions which will be made today regarding this, be it regarding the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, the cybersecurity concerns surrounding our increasingly interconnected world, or the delicate balance between privacy and data-driven progress, will have far-reaching consequences for individuals and industries alike.
Let us take a retrospective glance at the notable events and transformative developments in the digital markets and technology landscape, exploring their potential implications for the startup ecosystem.
1. Developments with regards to Google Lagaan
Google faced a significant setback when the CCI imposed penalties for high in-app purchase commissions, challenging its market dominance. Despite Google's appeal to the NCLAT, the tribunal rejected the stay application and mandated a 10% penalty deposit. Google initially sought the Hon'ble Supreme Court's intervention but withdrew its appeal in April. The Delhi High Court's groundbreaking statement mentioning that there is no impediment for the CCI to accept ADIF's urgent hearing application, enabled the CCI's oral hearing, leading to a Contravention Order in May 2023. This initiated an inquiry into Google's compliance, with the CCI posing nine questions. While the final hearing is set for January, this year's events underscore a shift in favour of India's startup ecosystem in the ongoing battle against big tech dominance.
2. Developments on Google Android Bundling case
October 2022 also saw Google being handed a penalty of INR 1337 Crores along with remedial directions by the CCI in relation to the issue of app bundling in Android OS. Even though Google had filed an appellate application with the NCLAT in January this year, the NCLAT upheld most of the remedies prescribed by the CCI for Google, along with the total penalty amount. The matter now rests with the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, and a final hearing will take place early next year. This marks a significant chapter in the ongoing dispute, marking the potential beginning of the end of dominance by big techs and ushering in a new era of progress for startups.
3. Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023
In 2016, the Puttaswamy judgment stated that Privacy is a fundamental right. Since then, several iterations of data protection bill have been presented, but year 2023 stands as a significant milestone in the evolution of data protection laws due to the enactment of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA). The DPDPA introduces clarity and relaxes localisation norms, addressing long-standing concerns in the digital data landscape. However, despite this crucial legislative progress, the comprehensive implementation of the DPDPA awaits the formulation and release of guiding Rules. These Rules are anticipated to provide detailed frameworks and procedures, ensuring a seamless and effective application of the DPDPA's provisions. For startups, the yet-to-be-released Rules highlight the constant interplay between evolving regulations and the practical challenges of ensuring data protection in the digital era. The year 2024 holds a promising future for startups as robust privacy measures foster innovation and trust in the digital landscape.
4. Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)
The launch of the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) takes center stage as a transformative initiative in India. ONDC aims to democratize e-commerce access for millions of sellers, particularly those in small towns and rural areas, with the goal of maximizing e-retail penetration. This signifies a crucial moment, not just in reshaping the e-commerce landscape, but also in promoting collaborative growth for startups through scalable and cost-effective solutions. ONDC emerges as a symbol of inclusive digital commerce, leaving a lasting impact on the technological and entrepreneurial landscape of the year.
In November 2023, ONDC showcased robust growth with over 6.3 million transactions in 600+ cities. The network boasts 2.3 Lakh+ active sellers and service providers spanning 500+ cities, supported by 59 live Network Participants. Notably, 3000 Farmer Producer Organisations and 400 Self-Help Groups, micro-entrepreneurs, and social enterprises have integrated into the ONDC network. An exciting development includes ONDC's inaugural export pilot, with Singapore becoming the first market to procure products from Indian sellers through the network.
5. Telecommunications Act, 2023
The Telecommunications Act, 2023, emerges as a crucial development, replacing archaic laws and embracing a forward-looking approach. Noteworthy for excluding OTT providers from the telecom services authorization regime, the bill modernizes spectrum allocation and enhances user protection. This transformative legislation signifies India's commitment to technological progress and regulatory resilience. Overall, it sets the stage for a dynamic era in the telecom sector, addressing contemporary challenges and fostering innovation.
6. The proposed Digital India Act and regulation of new technologies
AI stands as a promising technology revolutionizing industries by automating processes, making informed decisions, and unlocking unprecedented levels of efficiency. Its ability to analyze vast datasets and adapt to dynamic scenarios positions AI as a transformative force with far-reaching implications for innovation and problem-solving. The much awaited/anticipated Digital India bill will address a spectrum of emerging cybercrimes such as unauthorized information sharing, deepfakes, and cyberbullying. It intends to place a strong emphasis on protecting children by regulating addictive technology, enforcing age-gating, and safeguarding their data on social media platforms. The proposed bill will be introducing a "do not track" requirement for businesses targeting children and will extend its regulatory reach to the gaming sector to mitigate online risks. Notably, the legislation will serve as a comprehensive framework encompassing a wide array of innovative technologies, including AI and the metaverse, ensuring their ethical use. This change in legislation is set to usher in a new era for responsible and ethical use of digital technologies. Overall, the proposed Digital India Act will play an instrumental role in enhancing online safety, privacy, and accountability in the ever-evolving digital landscape. Its draft is awaited in 2024.
As we stand at the cusp of 2024, the promises of enhanced privacy measures, ethical use of technology, and the burgeoning potential for startups signal a future where India continues to shape the global tech landscape. The resilience shown in regulatory evolution and the strides taken in technological progress pave the way for a digital era that is not only innovative but also values-driven and inclusive. The events of 2023 are not just a reflection of the present but a compass guiding us towards a promising and responsible digital future.
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