[Answered] Examine the paradox in India’s digital landscape—being a leader in technology while also leading in internet shutdowns. What long-term impact could this have on India’s global standing?

Introduction: Give the context of the question.

Body: Highlight the long-term impact of the internet shutdown on India’s global standing.

Conclusion: Way forward.

The above paradox about India’s digital landscape is being highlighted in Statista which shows that despite ranking second in the world in terms of active internet users, and also the second-largest social media user base India has imposed the maximum number of internet shutdowns for five years in a row, depriving millions of connectivity.

Issues raised in the context of this paradox:

  • Global tech hub: India has always positioned itself as a global technology hub with immense potential for a thriving IT and software services industry, support for the startup ecosystem & large pool of skilled IT professionals.
  • Internet shutdowns: According to the report of the Keep It On coalition and Access Now, India is the only G20 country to have shut down the internet more than twice (84 times) in 2022. These shutdowns disrupt communication, access to information, and the functioning of businesses, leading to concerns about freedom of expression and the right to access information.

What is the long-term impact of this on India’s global standing?

  • Economic impact: Regular internet outages can be detrimental to India’s economic interests. It interferes with digital transactions, which are becoming more and more important in a globalized environment. It can discourage foreign investment because potential investors would be apprehensive about the stability of the digital infrastructure.
  • Freedom of expression: Various civil society groups and UN reports have demonstrated the adverse effects of internet shutdowns including violation of human rights, and the right to free expression. This impacts India’s reputation as a democratic and inclusive society.
  • Impact on Digital India: Internet shutdowns risk ambitious projects like Digital India, Startup India, Aadhar, and UPI infrastructure impacting millions who depend on these services and affecting Digital Inclusion.
  • Innovation and Technology: Internet shutdowns can stifle innovation and technological advancement. In an era where innovation relies heavily on access to information and global collaboration, frequent disruptions can impede India’s progress in cutting-edge technologies.
  • Geopolitical Relations: India’s digital paradox may also affect its relationships with other nations. While it seeks to strengthen its tech ties with countries like the United States & EU, the shutdowns could raise questions about its commitment to an open and free internet.

Conclusion:

India being the chair of G20 must commit to reducing internet shutdowns in the digital age & maintain its ambition of digital growth and global leadership.

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