As election fever rises and #Kerala #TamilNadu and #WestBengal go to the polls, we're bringing you an analysis of manifestos of major parties on their commitments to tech innovation, digital rights, internet access, privacy and cybersecurity.
Despite a rising number of young voters and Indian internet users, political parties have been slow to move on digital rights. Before the 2019 general election we drafted an agenda making an appeal across party lines to prioritize digital rights.…
Following are our key learnings surrounding the promises made by political parties. We follow a model in which a “+” indicates a positive move, “-” a negative one, and “?” indicates one which does not present a clear foreseeable consequence or is ambiguous.
CPIM, BJP, and Congress have emphasized improving access to the internet and increasing digital literacy, a welcome move. An even larger push has given to innovation and the promotion of digital technology across the public and private sectors and governance.
Cybersecurity sees a muted response. Strict laws against online threats evoke eerie visions of the repealed section 118A of the Kerala Police Act. Apart from a future Right to be Heard Act and nod to net neutrality, digital rights+privacy remain unaddressed.
Manifestos of both DMK and AIADMK contain positive promises w.r.t. increasing internet connectivity and promoting innovation, though larger plans to increase internet access is missing in both.
Neither manifesto contains explicit provisions for the protection of digital rights (the Kalavan app launched by the AIADMK government has faced questions with respect to privacy and data protection), while both seem to promote CCTV-style surveillance.
In West Bengal, BJP, TMC, and CPIM try to address the low internet penetration rate. All parties acknowledge the importance of IT and scientific advancement, which will hopefully lead to an increased focus on building out digital infrastructure.
The performance of parties w.r.t. promoting digital rights ranges from mild to disappointing. CCTVs-on-every-street style surveillance will only infringe upon citizens' rights, as will privacy concerns from projects such as the Health ID programme.
Tech is advancing rapidly, and political parties across India are committed to the new wave. Action around digital rights must keep up. We hope this analysis helped you understand how parties fare in this regard!

We thank @ana__gauche for aiding manifesto translations!

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