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Tech diplomacy has never been more important in the geopolitical landscape


By Sassoon Grigorian

Emerging from the COVID pandemic, to dealing with the impact of climate change, to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the US-China dynamic – the geopolitical landscape is more volatile than ever.

In this climate, the technology industry and technology itself has a vital role to play, to build trust in the flow of information across borders and sectors. More than ever, cross border data flows are critical to support our economic growth.

Data Frameworks with Trust

It was only a few years ago when the late former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, during Japan’s G20 Presidency called for the creation of the Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) mechanism for cross border data sharing. Abe’s vision was reflected in a G20 communique signed by most member states – a framework for promoting cross-border data flow with enhanced protections for intellectual property, personal information, and cybersecurity.

Open cross-border data flow is the lifeblood of the global digital economy. There is empirical support for this. McKinsey estimates that cross-border data flows account for three percent of global GDP output, the equivalent of USD 2.3 trillion. It is welcoming to note that the recently released Draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill includes a provision for data transfers.

Impact on Sustainability

Attitudes to sustainability are fast evolving as businesses realise what’s at stake if they don’t act quickly. Reducing emissions and achieving net zero – once a footnote in corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports – is now an integral part of strategic discussions.

Salesforce’s commissioned report, Trail to Net Zero for India found more jobs, cost savings and improved business can be achieved with a net zero target. The report found the economic impact of businesses moving to the cloud could result in cost savings of USD 2.2 billion in 2022 and USD 24 billion between 2022 – 2030, and up to 60 million Mt CO2 emissions reduction between 2022-2030 if cloud operators source 100 percent renewable power. In this scenario, technology has a vital role in helping address climate change.

The Pivotal Role of India

As India takes on the Presidency of the G20, it is poised to cement its place as a digital superpower. Global technology businesses already have a significant presence in India, with the information technology sector in India attracting the largest foreign direct investment over the last two decades and being one of the major employment generators in the country. However, there is still potential for India to further grow and develop this sector into a significant global economic engine, by adopting a cross-border data sharing policy, aligned with the policy frameworks of its major digital trade partners.

India as host of the G20 Presidency has a unique opportunity to assume a leadership position, and showcase its digital credentials, and steer the global economy that can leverage technology for good. Whether it is India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) that has enabled financial inclusion for millions of those outside the formal banking system, the multilayered digital identity, payment and data management system through Aadhaar, and its engineering muscle for large global technology companies – now is the time to leverage technology to its potential in these volatile times.

Tech diplomacy is underpinned by trust. India as the incoming G20 President needs to lead from the front and demonstrate how technology can play a crucial role in our global challenges.

(The author is Vice President – Government Affairs – APAC, Salesforce. Views expressed are personal.)





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