Microsoft President Has Only Praise For India's New Data Bill

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chairman and president, has lauded India’s Data Bill in a recent interview, describing it as a well-balanced approach to data protection. Smith said it offers robust protection for personal digital data while facilitating the free flow of data across borders.

What Happened: In an interview with Economic Times, Smith commended the government’s deliberate approach to crafting this framework, which aligns with international standards, focusing on safeguarding personal data rather than all data types.

When discussing India’s evolving technology regulatory environment, Smith expressed optimism, noting that India has strengthened its position in the tech world, especially in artificial intelligence (AI). He highlighted India’s growing pool of skilled professionals, particularly in engineering and AI, positioning the country as a tech leader.

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The Indian government recently lowered the age for consent to 14 years in the draft bill in a major relief to companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. Under the new bill, these tech firms will have to appoint data protection officers based in India to represent them and be accountable to a "consent manager." It also proposes stiff penalties of as much as ₹500 crore on persons and companies that fail to prevent data breaches.

Regarding concerns about a potential recession, Smith acknowledged that the tech sector experienced a growth bubble during the pandemic but has since stabilized. He said he anticipates that both Microsoft and the overall industry will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, with AI playing a significant role. Smith emphasizes the importance of upskilling the workforce, given the capital-intensive nature of AI investments.

Regulating AI: Smith also delved into the topic of AI regulation in India. While India has yet to establish AI regulations, Smith sees an opportunity to align with global examples. He underscored a unique opportunity for India to participate in a voluntary code of conduct initiated by the European Union and the United States. This initiative, involving G7 countries plus India and Indonesia, could lay the groundwork for future AI regulation in India, enabling the country to influence international standards.

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Editor’s Note: Artificial intelligence was used as a secondary aid in the writing of this story.

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