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The Indian Supercloud

Lockdown is giving rise to questions of digital infrastructure in India

There is talk of an Indian supercloud amidst the biggest lockdown in the world. With the people of India at home how can digital infrastructure be built to support this and what issues are involved beyond connectivity?

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“The Indian government will not restore the high-speed internet despite the pressing need for the population to stay informed about the coronavirus pandemic.” — Foreign Policy, the 13th of April.

There are policy-makers eager to address this.

“The coronavirus pandemic is shaping a veritable SuperCloud — floating above India, servicing our needs, our relationships, our dreams. Cooped up at home because of the nationwide lockdown, we are still working diligently, transacting via shopping and banking apps, participating in webinars and conferences, streaming movies and TV shows that are served up magically, and chatting with loved ones for hours over video calls.”

According to Jayant Sinha many problems can be fixed with this approach — much of India’s physical friction: “…congested roads, erratic power supply, overloaded transportation system, sparse banking networks…” if people just conducted their lives digitally.

  • Internet users in India already exceed over 600 million, with the vast majority accessing it through their mobile devices.
  • With the lowest 4G prices in the world, Indian users are using more total data on the mobile Internet than users anywhere else.

“The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has now clarified that all financial data should be stored in the country, though it can be processed outside the country. This is driving the rapid growth of data centres across India.”

This is said to be better for users as well.

“Now is the time to build our SuperCloud and make it into a powerful force multiplier for India and its economic growth.”

One has to respect Jayant Sinha perspectives, yet at the same time it is important to consider how this will play out in practice.

Internet Shutdowns

It must be mentioned that there has been a variety of shutdowns of Internet in India prior to the Coronavirus.

“Authorities usually order internet providers to suspend services, citing public order reasons. Under Indian laws, the government can direct telecom companies to shut down services or take down sites, among other things.” BBC, the 19th of December 2019.

As such the digital infrastructures in India is highly political and used strategically when needed.

Written by

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.

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