Give Infrastructure Status To Data Centres, Technology Firms Press DPIIT

Technology firms and industry bodies on Tuesday discussed issues linked to data centres with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, with foreign firms expressing their objection to norms on data storage.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) said the aim of the meeting was to discuss data storage in India, and not data localisation. “We highlighted the idea of giving infrastructure status to data centres,” said Ashish Agarwal, senior director and head, public policy at Nasscom.

However, major foreign players including Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and others, reiterated their opposition to the current norms on data storage and part of the discussion focused on data localisation.

A draft of the e-commerce policy, released last year, and now withdrawn, had spoken about localising data by e-commerce players, the largest ones of whom are US based.

While a new policy is reported to be in the works, there is no clarity on the timeline for a new policy. However, in wake of the Personal Data Protection Bill, which is yet to be passed into law, the discussion on data has again picked up steam. This will be the overarching policy on personal data, if and when an e-commerce policy is introduced.

The meeting was called by the government to brainstorm ways to attract more investments in setting up data centers. All firms have been asked to submit written suggestions on the matter and Google, Facebook and Wipro have been asked to compile all recommendations, a source said. But companies have pointed out that granting infrastructure status to structures housing data centers remains the need of the hour.

Major multinational corporations including Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Accenture and Adobe, as well as Indian Information technology majors HCL, Infosys and TCS were invited for the meet. The foreign companies on Tuesday argued that data disclosure issues along with the overall push to relocate servers, have been taken up with the United States trade department, a person present at the meeting, said.

Practical issues such as the difficulties in combining two data centres that may be close to each other (such as permissions required from the telecom ministry and other departments) were discussed.

Nasscom also raised concerns of there being no mechanism for having in-built digital infrastructure planning for cities. Even Smart Cities have retrofitted digital infrastructure, one of the participants pointed out.

The issue had threatened to derail bilateral talks between both nations last year. Ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi, the Donald Trump administration had reportedly considered capping the issuance of H-1B visas to about 15 per cent for any country that “does data localisation.”

After pulling out of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade bloc in October, New Delhi has focused on securing a bilateral pact with the US.

The US-India Business Council had flagged several provisions outside of data privacy in the Personal Data Protection Bill that has been introduced in Parliament. These include the inclusion of requirements around non-personal data and voluntary social media know your customer (KYC) provisions.

Last year, at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, India had refused to participate in the digital economy track of discussions. The Osaka Track pushed hard for the creation of laws that would allow data flows between countries and the removal of data localisation.―Business Standard

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