Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in the country and chairman of Reliance Industries, has emerged as the newest supporter of data localization. Speaking at the 9th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Mukesh Ambani urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to end increasing “data colonization”, and added that Indians should own and control their data. “Data is the new oil (in the new world order). And data is the new wealth. India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people – and not by corporates, especially global corporations,” he said.
Ambani also drew parallels to Gandhi’s movement against political colonization while paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi in the year of his 150th birth anniversary. He urged everyone that they should collectively launch a new movement against data colonization. “For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India – in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian,” he said. Mukesh Ambani is backing government’s data localization plan for the second time within a month.
The government has ordered companies doing business in India to store all customer data locally. In April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ordered companies to store the “entire data relating to permanent systems operated by them… in a system only in India” and the rule is seen as a way to ensure “unfettered supervisory access” for “better monitoring”. The government is also considering a draft data security law that will require data centres for all companies to be physically located in the country.
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The policy is expected to come alongside changes to e-commerce policy that will also require the storage of customer data locally. This draft data privacy bill recommends restrictions on the transfer and storage of information by global tech firms like Facebook and Google. Ambani also detailed his plans to introduce a new e-commerce platform to challenge Flipkart and Amazon in the country.