A Balancing Act : The Promise and Peril of Big Tech in India

This report examines the impact of Big Tech companies on Indian markets and society, and the policies needed to align Big Tech trajectories with healthy markets, individual freedoms and societal wellbeing.

Almost a decade ago, in the wake of the Arab Spring, technology and social media companies were celebrated across the globe as harbingers of new modes of democratic participation and individual freedoms.

Cut to the present, and there is growing tech-lash against Big Tech companies, with concerns ranging from market monopolization to interference in democratic processes.

What exactly is Big Tech? Who are the key players? What is their role in India? What are the policy priorities for India?

Click here to download the report, or visit our microsite for the report: https://bigtechinindia.com/

  • Big Tech is a concept rather than a static set of companies, characterized by data-centric business models, network effects, infrastructural role, and civic functions.
  • Big Tech companies bring both benefits and harms across four keys areas of influence: market power, informational gateway, privacy and sovereign interests.

  • Big Tech poses a ‘wicked problem’ for public policy in India, involving complex trade-offs between competing priorities, interests, and values.
  • No single solution is enough, nor all solutions alike. Instead, we need to pursue multiple policy pathways across the four key areas of influence.
  • Finding the right policy approach is ultimately a question of competing public values, not more evidence.

We spoke to 40+ thought-leaders in India, including representatives from civil society, Big Tech firms, Indian start-ups, academia, government, regulators, and the media. We supplemented this with a comprehensive review of 400+ academic and literary pieces and several structured discussions on the topic.

Initiative

AI & Society

Authors

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi studies the politics, social impacts, and ethics of technology transitions in the global south. She has written extensively on the challenges and risks of AI in India, the emerging gig economy and labor well-being, data governance and gender and technology. She has served on government committees for artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. Urvashi is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Tech and Social justice champion at the World Economic Forum, and a former member of the T20 Task Force for the Future of Work in the G20. She regularly writes for national media publications and has been quoted in the BBC, Reuters, CNBC, Times of India, and Indian Express, among others. Previously she was a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Associate Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs. Urvashi has a Doctorate from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Angelina Chamuah

Angelina Chamuah is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work examines the social and ethical implications of AI and other emerging technologies in India. She has been studying the impact of AI in India across different sectors including agriculture, healthcare, policing, and finance. Key to her research are questions of values and interests that drive socio-technological imaginaries of AI and the future of AI governance in India. In addition to AI, her research interests include the role of Big Tech companies in India, politics of data and human-machine interaction. She holds an M.Phil in Sociology and a Masters in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, DU.