Journal article Open Access

Regulating Emerging Technologies in India: Challenges and Recommendations

Chakravarty, Abhishek, and Sivasubramanian, Archana

The sudden emergence of new technologies can always put governments and regulators in a space of perplexity. In India, while there is an immediate need to pass legislations or prescribe guidelines to regulate these emerging technologies, there also remains a deep vacuum in regulatory thinking. These vacuums are temporarily filled through regulatory approaches that do not further the innovation ecosystem while also not delivering public value and purpose. First, most regulations in India are ‘command and control’, in that they seek to enforce rules for companies and consumers alike, pushing a regime of excessive compliance. Second, these regulations are also need based and they develop impetuously when there is some public traction. This suddenness in regulations can be problematic for a healthy development of an ecosystem where innovation and purpose find instrumental value through rules and guidelines. Third, Indian regulators neither seek to understand the technologies they regulate, nor do they adequately pay attention to public needs such as privacy, algorithmic harms, legal liabilities and democratic values. They are more ‘state- focussed’ than ‘public-focussed’. By this we mean that regulators seek to further and enhance state interests as opposed to furthering public innovation and purpose.

In this paper, we attempt to trace three major challenges in India’s regulatory landscape, we then supplement it with a case study on the drone regulatory ecosystem in the country, and we lay out a unique framework for regulators to strengthen state capacity and rethink their approaches for India in the emerging technologies landscape. We also recommend an adaptive, co-regulatory approach for them to find the right balance in safeguarding interests of the state, enhance ease of doing business, promote democratic rights and encourage innovation that benefits the universe of emerging technologies.

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