IT IS essential for democracies to work together to invest in future technology, deepen intelligence on cyber security and prevent manipulation of public opinion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday while flagging cryptocurrency as one of the areas where they should work together to “ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands” and “spoil our youth”.
Speaking on “India’s technology evolution and revolution” during a virtual address at the inaugural Sydney Dialogue, Modi referred to the digital age that “is changing everything around us” and said it was “essential for democracies to work together” — from technology to supply chains.
“Take cryptocurrency or bitcoin, for example. It is important that all democratic nations work together on this and ensure it does not end up in wrong hands, which can spoil our youth,” Modi said.
Highlighting areas of cooperation among democracies, Modi said: “To invest together in research and development in future technology; to develop trusted manufacturing base and trusted supply chains; to deepen intelligence and operational cooperation on cyber security, protect critical information infrastructure; to prevent manipulation of public opinions; to develop technical and governance standards and norms consistent with our democratic values; and, to create standards and norms for data governance and for cross-border flow that protect and secure data.”
The PM’s remarks come at a time when the Government is engaged in detailed discussions with experts and industry associations on regulation and taxation of cryptocurrency. On Saturday, the Prime Minister had chaired a meeting in which it was agreed that the steps taken will be “progressive and forward-looking”.
While cryptocurrency has found investors in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the Government is concerned about the youth being misled by “over-promising” of returns or becoming an avenue for money laundering and terror financing. The issue is expected to be discussed during the winter session of Parliament.
In his address Thursday, Modi described data as the greatest product of technology, but cautioned against its misuse. “The digital age…has redefined politics, economy and society. It is raising new questions on sovereignty, governance, ethics, law, rights and security. It is reshaping international competition, power and leadership…But, we also face new risks and new forms of conflicts across diverse threats from sea-bed to cyber to space,” he said.
India has created a robust framework of data protection, privacy and security, he said. Listing five important digital transitions in India, Modi started with “the world’s most extensive public information infrastructure” in which “over 1.3 billion Indians have a unique digital identity, 600,000 villages will soon be connected with broadband” — and “the world’s most efficient payment infrastructure, the UPI”.
“Two, use of digital technology for governance, inclusion, empowerment, connectivity, delivery of benefits and welfare. Three, India has the world’s third largest and fastest growing startup ecosystem. Four, India’s industry and services sectors, even agriculture, are undergoing massive digital transformation. Five, there is a large effort to prepare India for the future,” he said. “We are investing in developing indigenous capabilities in telecom technology such as 5G and 6G.”
Sydney Dialogue is a world summit conducted by Australian Strategic Policy Institute for emerging, critical and cyber technologies. The inaugural summit, from November 17-19, is being hosted virtually from Sydney.
Close watch on cryptocurrency
The PM’s call comes days after a meeting chaired by him highlighted the need for global partnerships and collective strategies to tackle the reach and impact of cryptocurrency. There was also a consensus to take steps that are progressive and forward-looking.