At the cost of repeating a cliché, technology and data-driven innovations are at the center of economic activity in what is now a digitally-led era. Trade in digital services is highly dependent on the ability of organizations to process and transfer data across borders. At the same time, the need to protect personal data has encouraged countries to develop progressive data regulations to ensure adequate protection of the rights of the individual.

As a world leader in information and communications technology, India has enormous potential to attract investment and increase its digital exports. And, with India negotiating trade agreements with several countries, including the UK, it will be important that the Data Protection Bill strikes the right balance between data localization and the possibility of cross-border data flows. . The stakes for policy makers are therefore high.

Data privacy and digital commerce are often discussed in mutually exclusive ways. However, a progressive data protection regime provides the trust, regulatory certainty, protection and security needed to support digital commerce.

The pandemic has made it clear that data flows are critical to the functioning of the global economy, for example, the adoption of digital services for business continuity and societal responses such as staying connected and monitoring and controlling vaccine production . Data flows will only continue to increase as more countries and sectors embrace digital transformation, while restrictive regulations could hamper growth and innovation.

As a result, countries around the world are striving to develop and implement data privacy frameworks that adequately protect citizen data, while allowing data to cross borders in ways that support trade and commerce. ‘innovation. In the recently published report by The Dialogue and the UK India Business Council, we explain how India and the UK can align their data protection regulations and create interoperability.

India and the UK can work together, sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices to develop emerging technology regulations. The UK government recently listed India as a priority destination for a future partnership on data adequacy, and the ongoing FTA negotiations provide a framework to take this discussion forward.

If India and the UK seize this opportunity, they could create a model that not only works for both countries, but also sets an example for the rest of the world.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal rightly said he wanted the FTA to create “frameworks that support businesses of the future”.

This is significant as India boasts of the second largest startup ecosystem in the world, with an expected annual growth of 10-12% and around 20,000 startups in India. About 4,750 of them are tech-focused startups. Restrictive and different regulatory regimes may impact the compliance that would apply to these startups and if data flows are restricted, this could impact the ability of startups to realize the benefits of online collaboration. foreign.

With the Data Protection Bill still under discussion, the path to interoperability is underway. The Data Protection Bill is an opportunity for India to develop mechanisms for data transfer treaties with like-minded countries. Bilateral data transfer treaties will not only help establish a strong standard of privacy, but will also allow data to flow between India and countries with which it has such agreements, thus fostering innovation and trade. . To achieve this, the data protection regime must seek to uphold the principles of adequacy and reciprocity, which includes the free flow of data, an independent data regulator, and strong checks and balances.

In conclusion, policy makers should, without a doubt, update laws to address legitimate data concerns. But they must ensure that these laws and regulations are scalable and enable individuals, businesses and governments to maximize the enormous societal and economic benefits of data and digital technologies.

We believe it is in the interest of both countries to take advantage of the ongoing FTA negotiations and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India will be key to advancing the regulatory interoperability needed to realize the full potential of two countries and maximize job creation and prosperity. .

Meghna Misra Elder is associate director of the UK India Business Council and Kazim Rizvi is the founder of think tank The Dialogue. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the position of this publication.

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