The government held dialogues on the principles of the Digital India Act in Mumbai.

During his address, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said that the Digital India Act seeks to harmonise everything in the tech space. The minister mentioned that safety and trust will be at the heart of the act, and it is going to be a huge section of the act. Online harm is also being dealt with by regulators globally. Weaponisation of misinformation and disinformation is also a major concern that needs to be addressed, especially with the added catalyst of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven deepfakes.

On the issue of intersecting regulation by sectoral regulators, it was informed that the Digital India Act will allow sectoral regulators such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and other ministries to create additional safeguards. The act will result in harmonisation of different laws and sectoral regulators will be consulted for this purpose.

Further, Chandrasekhar discussed the issue of regulating emerging technologies. He asserted that AI will be regulated through the prism of user harm. The objective is to ensure that emerging technologies should not cause any harm to digital citizens. Similarly, the industry can suggest guardrails for blockchain and Web 3.0. The government will not ban anything in the innovation space, unless it is linked with user harm. It wants to lead the charge in Web 3.0 and in AI with guardrails defined.

The minister also touched upon the issue of compliance for startups. He emphasised that in all recent laws, such as the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) directions released in April 2022 or the upcoming Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, startups have either been provided exemptions or an extended time period for compliance.

As per the government, the proposed law will be an important pillar of the Global Standard Cyber law framework that is being formulated for catalysing India’s digital economy goals. Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, National Data Governance Framework Policy, the recent amendments to the IT Rules, and CERT-In guidelines will form the other elements of this framework.

The session was attended by a diverse range of stakeholders of the technology ecosystem including industry associations, startups, IT professionals, think tanks and lawyers. Around 300 stakeholders attended the consultation.