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?

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  • 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 Aneja is Founding Director of Tandem Research. She works on the governance and sociology of emerging technology; southern partnerships for humanitarian and development assistance; and the power and politics of global civil society. Urvashi is also Associate Fellow at Chatham House and a columnist for the Indian Express. She has a PhD from the Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford. Previously, she was Associate Professor of International Relations at the OP Jindal Global University and Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

Angelina Chamuah

Angelina Chamuah is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work is focused on understanding regulatory frameworks for emerging technologies in India.She is interested in studying the development of emerging technologies and the complex entanglements between technology and society. Her M.Phil. research is centered on human-machine interactions in the context of social robotics and engages with questions of design and agency in the building of affective relationalities between humans and social robots. She has an M.A and M.Phil. in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics and a B.A (H) in Sociology from Miranda House, New Delhi.