Cross-Border data flows fundamental for AI growth in India

The Dialogue delivered a conference on AI, Privacy and Cross-Border data flows and also released a Working Paper titled “Intersection of Artificial Intelligence with Cross-Border Data Flow and Privacy”, at the Constitution Club of India.

The findings of the paper suggest that privacy can complement innovation in AI along with the fact that cross-border flow of data is imperative to drive AI growth in the future. Every day, large amounts of data flow course through the internet, over borders to power technologies that is leveraged for AI development and deployment. This data may originate from many sources located in multiple jurisdictions, making it imperative that data can move freely across borders. At the same time, with rising data collection and storage, doctrinal notions around ‘consent’ and ‘privacy notices’ should be considered. Privacy by design techniques can be incorporated at the level of privacy notices but also at each level of information flow till its storage and processing stage.

Founding Director of The Dialogue, Mr. Kazim Rizvi, stated, “This paper addresses two key challenges – enabling cross-border data flows to drive AI and ensuring that high-level privacy standards are complied with for AI deployment. For India to emerge as a leader in AI, it is crucial to harness its potential while maintaining privacy of citizens, while at the same time, we must ensure that data is allowed to flow across borders to give our technologists, scientists, engineers and developers the best possible opportunity to leverage AI for India’s development.”

The discussion in the conference revolved around the value of data for AI, importance for cross-border data flows, the ethical, legal and privacy aspects around AI deployment and a policy framework going forward. The discussions from the conference will be inputted towards the completion of the working paper for final publication in January.

The keynote address were given by Mr. Kalikesh Singh Deo, MP Lok Sabha and Dr. Neeta Verma, Director-General, National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, while Dr. Narendra Jadhav, MP Rajya Sabha, gave the valedictory remarks.

Other officials from the government included Dr. Avik Sarkar, NITI Aayog and Mr. Atul Tripathi. The conference saw participation from industry such as Ms. Bishakha Bhattacharya, IBM, Mr. Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, BSA Software Alliance, Ms. Anubhuti Bhrany, HP, as well as civil-society professionals such as Mr. Saikat Datta, Asia Times, Mr. Naman Aggarwal, Access Now, Mr. Apar Gupta, Internet Freedom, Mr. Amol Kulkarni, CUTS International, Mr. Rahul Sharma, IAPP, Ms. Gunja Kapoor from Pahle India Foundation, Mr. Adnan Ansari, 9.9 Insights, Ms. Anulekha Nandi, Digital Empowerment Foundation and Mr. Harsh Bajpai, The Dialogue. The event witnessed a strong participation from the legal community comprising of Ms. Meenu Chandra, Adyopant Legal, Mr. Prasanna S, Independent Lawyer, Ms. Pritka Kumar and Mr. Kushan Chakraborty from Cornellia Chambers, Ms. Arya Tripathi, PSA Legal and Mr. Aaron Kamath, Nishith Desai Associates.

The tech community saw participation from Dr. Gaurav Gandhi, Mlabs and Mr. Pranav, Analytics Vidhya.

Dr. Neeta Verma, DG, NIC, Government of India stated that AI-driven strategies needs to be developed by our country for social welfare. “An inclusive growth of our country is required. We can’t let AI be just a privilege to the elite, it should include people from all spheres. Look at healthcare in India. There is a lack of access to healthcare and quality healthcare. The problem is not that these facilities are not available in remote areas, but it is that doctors don’t want to go to such areas. AI can assist doctors – whether it’s robotic heart surgery that we saw last week in Gujarat or early diabetic detection. Agriculture, Education and Smart Cities are some of the other areas vital to India’s development.”

Mr. Deo added, “Rather than a threat, AI can be an opportunity. The engineering graduates can develop new spheres using technology and Artificial Intelligence, which in turn can create new jobs”.

The keynote session was followed by a panel discussion on Value of Data to AI and Innovation that was moderated by Ms. Meenu Chandral. The panelists included Dr. Avik Sarkar, Mr. Apar Gupta, Mr. Gaurav Gandhi, Ms. Gunja Kapoor.

The panel focused on identifying the importance of data for AI and the innovation it can drive in the future. Another key discussion that came out of this panel was the value proposition of data. When is the data really valuable? When it comes to big data, analytics and AI, the value does not come from collecting the data, or even from deriving some insight from it — value comes from just one thing: action.

Ms. Chandra mentioned how the value of data is not only monetary value. Kicking off the discussions, Dr. Avik Sarkar talked about data in the Indian context. He further explained the variety of big data – Speech datasets, Imagenet, Textual Data. But what remains to be seen is these diverse datasets in our local context. For example, datasets of indic languages can benefit both the organization and the consumer.

Apar Gupta said, “Data that is used for the prescriptive or predictive algorithms; 1. Data needs to be checked and 2. Inherent biases needs to be verified”. Gunja Kapoor talked about the data protection bill and how international trade agreements, MLATs and Track One Diplomacy hold key for an ideal cross-border data flow regime.

The second panel discussion on Cross-Border Data Flow fundamental to AI growth was moderated by Ms. Anubhuti Kaul Bhrany. The panelists included Mr. Rahul Sharma, Mr. Amol Kulkarni, Ms. Bishakha Bhattacharya, Ms. Pritika Kumar and Mr. Kazim Rizvi.

Giving the panel a technology perspective, Ms. Bishakha Bhattacharya of IBM stated, “There needs to be checks and balances to process AI-related solutions. An overhaul framework where not only performance and accuracy is tested but questions of biases are responded”.

The third panel dealt with Ethical and Legal Challenges around AI Deployment. It was moderated by Mr. Kushan Chakraborty. The panelists, mostly from the legal fraternity, held discussions around AI ethics and the “legality” of AI.  “It’s a paradoxical situation”, says Ms. Arya Tripathi, PSA Legal.

A key focus was whether AI entities could be considered under law, though it ticks on communication, goal-driven and creativeness factor.

Mr. Naman Aggarwal of Access Now said, “Technology is a value neutral paradigm. We first have to provide value to technology and only then we can start talking about giving “human rights” to AI.”

The final panel was moderated by Mr. Adnan Ansari. It was based on the theme of Policy Framework to Facilitate AI’s Success – Restrictive Vs. Expansive. This panel discussion debated which methodology is essential while creating a policy framework around AI and whether the success of AI depends on it being restrictive or expansive.

Dr. Narendra Jadhav, MP, Rajya Sabha in his valedictory remarks highlighted the importance of cross-border data flows and provided some key statistics.“The cross-border data flows has increased 45 times between 2004 and 2014. In 2014 only, they accounted for US $2.8 trillion in GDP and hence, cross-border data flows are important for the development of Industry 4.0”. He further stated, “Moving forward, trade agreements would hold the key to cross-border data flows. For data privacy and security, there needs to be a stakeholder consultation and anonymization of data must be done to protect citizens identity.”

Kindly find the link to the working paper here – Intersection of AI with Cross-Border Data Flow and Privacy


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India is marred with a complex social, economic and political structure, which requires innovative solutions to solve the most difficult problems of today. India is also a land of opportunities despite its challenges, mainly due to its demographic dividend and cultural diversity. The Dialogue is founded with the vision of harnessing the opportunities present in India today by reinventing the policy and political discourse in order to drive a forward looking narrative for the country.