Mukesh urges PM to end data colonisation by foreign tech cos
Gandhinagar: Richest Indian Mukesh Ambani Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to end increasing "data colonisation" by global corporations, saying Indians should own and control their own data.
Speaking at the 9th Vibrant Gujarat Summit here, Ambani drew parallels to Mahatma Gandhi's movement against political colonisation to call for a revolution against data colonisation.
"Data is the new oil (in the new world order). And data is the new wealth. India's data must be controlled and owned by Indian people - and not by corporates, especially global corporations," the Reliance Industries chairman said.
The comments come amid a debate over balancing user protections with support for the fast booming digital economy. Foreign giants and hundreds of home-growth startups have flourished amid a dearth of regulation.
"Today, we have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonisation. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India - in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian," he said. "Honourable Prime Minister, I am sure you will make this one of the principal goals of your Digital India mission."
This is the second time within a month that Ambani has backed Indian authorities' efforts to get companies to store data locally.
The government wants companies doing business in India to store all customer data locally. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April 2018 ordered companies to store the "the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them... in a system only in India" so as to ensure "unfettered supervisory access" for "better monitoring".
The government is considering a draft data security law that requires data centres for all companies be physically located within India. Also under consideration is an e-commerce policy that requires the storage of customer data in the country.
The draft data privacy bill recommends restrictions on the transfer and storage of information by global giants from Facebook to Google.
An e-commerce policy last month tightened rules to disallow foreign-owned online retailers from pushing merchants to sell exclusively through their platforms. It also barred them from selling products via companies in which they own equity.
Ambani, who had himself supercharged internet adoption by helping crash data prices with the launch of his telecom venture Jio in 2016, had last month in Mumbai stated that "data colonisation is as bad as the previous forms of colonisation."
He is also planning to create an online-to-offline platform that would take on the likes of Amazon and Walmart, which are both betting big on India's e-commerce market.
Speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit Friday, he outlined plans for his online shopping platform.
Without giving timelines, he said Jio and Reliance Retail, which has over 9,000 stores across 6,500-plus towns in the country, will launch "a unique new commerce platform to empower and enrich our 12 lakh small retailers and shopkeepers in Gujarat - which are part of over 3 crore community in India."
Ambani had previously spoken of leveraging the Jio network for launching some sort of an e-commerce venture.
Jio has over 280 million subscribers with internet access.
Mukesh Ambani Friday also committed to invest Rs 3 lakh crore in various projects in the next 10 years in Gujarat, that may range from energy and petrochemical to new technology and digital business.
Ambani's Reliance Industries operates the world's largest oil refining complex at Jamnagar in Gujarat as well as petrochemical units at multiple locations in the state.
"Gujarat is Reliance's Janmabhoomi (birthplace) as well as its Karmabhoomi (workplace). Gujarat has always been - and will always remain - our first choice," he said.
Reliance Industries has also invested billions of dollars in the roll out of telecom venture, Jio.
"We have so far invested nearly Rs 3 lakh crores in the state of Gujarat. And created and catalyzed over one million livelihood opportunities in Gujarat. In comparison to the past decades, Reliance will double this investment and employment numbers over the next ten years," he said.
The twin oil refineries at Jamnagar will produce more value-added products like petrochemicals and less of fuel as the world moves towards electric vehicles.
He, however, did not say when Jio, that started operations in 2016, will launch 5G services.