NEW DELHI: The China origin virus has accelerated the use of digital technology from what would have taken years to weeks. Jaijit Bhattacharya, the director of the Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research and Samiran Gupta, the India Head of ICANN, discuss COVID-19 fast forwarding digital technology in this chat with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. The conversation looks at the new normal of surveillance, tracing and tracking and what it means in a post-pandemic democratic country as well as how the digital divide needs to be narrowed. Both participants are certain that the key is greater, wider and deeper content in languages other than english. While they crystal-ball gaze at the possibility of manual workers using bots from home to clean drains, they also express huge concern that the digital divide will get exponentially wider. Dr Bhattacharya makes the point that China is the dominant global technological force and the virus has cemented its leadership. India is a virtual non-player in the technology commodity market and Samiran Gupta feels a generational investment is the only way New Delhi can get skin in the game. Dr Bhattacharya is sceptical about what Facebook is not making public in its $ 5.7 billion deal for a 9.99 per cent stake in Reliance Jio while Samiran Gupta points out there have been previous attempts at making the kirana store the last stop in the last mile of a digital retail chain. While both experts feel this is a once-in-a-century opportunity, they are firm that no one can be left behind as a digital have-not.
Dr Jaijit Bhattacharya heads C-DEP, an independent think tank that formulates positions on policies for the digital economy through in-depth research in active collaboration with academia and industry. He is also Adjunct Professor at the Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi. Samiran Gupta is India Head of ICANN, a not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable.