A Global Order as Technology’s much needed Pole Star

Context: Ever since the Dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the rapid scale and pace of development of technology have radically and disruptively transformed our societies and daily lives. Challenges to notion of Nation-State:
  • First, as defined by political theorists, the fundamental notion of a nation-state of a geographical unit in which citizens live is undergoing a massive change because of technology.
    • While geographical boundaries are still essential to be safeguarded against physical aggression/invasion, there are now several externalities occurring across the borders of nation-states, i.e., cyber-attacks, which have a ripple effect on the physical boundaries to challenge their socio-economic and political existence.
    • The advent of Web3, massive peer-to-peer networks and blockchains has allowed actors, both state and non-state, to influence areas such as trade, commerce, health and education even while remaining outside of financial and judicial scope.
  • Second, geography-based rules are no longer easily enforceable simply because of the declining significance of conventional geographical borders in the era of high technology.
    • Now, any form of “virtual activity” is not confined to the realms of the borders of a country; data travel on the chain of the world wide web and spread across the world at speed hitherto unimaginable.
    • When such activities fall foul of the laws of a particular geographically-determined nation-state, it is extremely difficult in the absence of a globally-accepted norm, to enforce the law in that particular geography and book the recalcitrant actors under the laws of the nation-state.
    • So, when the national sovereignty of countries is challenged by activities beyond their physical boundaries, their existing constitutionally set-up institutions comprising the executive, legislature and judiciary will prove inadequate in tackling them. 
    • Further, it is also difficult to establish applicability of any country-specific legislation due to the universal nature of technology, leading to problems in enforceability.
  • Third, the emergence of newer technologies has exposed the incapacity and inability of the government of the nation-state to administer and regulate these technologies. 
    • No longer is the nation-state the only conduit through which multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations and supranational organizations, both legitimate and illegitimate, state and non-state actors, need to operate. 
    • These entities have transcended physical boundaries to collaborate with the rest of the world, independent of traditional administrative and regulatory institutions.
Governing complexities and technology:
  • The data have become the most important raw material of our times, and only a handful of companies now hold unparalleled economic power and influence over it.
  • As reiterated by India in the past at various international fora, “the borderless nature of technology, and, more importantly, anonymity of actors involved, have challenged the traditionally accepted concepts of sovereignty, jurisdiction/regulation, and privacy.
  • In such a scenario, a principle-based global order for technology would help in streamlining the enforceability challenges in the adoption and diffusion of technology and providing guidance to emerging economies on how to deal with the evolving definitions of their sovereignty.
  • Further, as we have seen in case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way forward in managing future global pandemics is probably by the adoption of digital health.
Way Forward:
  • India needs a data transfer and data privacy law. With India, as the current chair of the G-20, this is the perfect opportunity to take leadership in this as it has done earlier in green initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance or the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Source: The Hindu

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