March 2016 Bulletin

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 13, 2016 08:05 AM
CIS Newsletter for the month of March 2016 is here.

The Centre for Internet & Society (CIS) is happy to share its March 2016 newsletter. Previous issues of the newsletters can be accessed at

  • CIS published and circulated two press releases on March 11 and 15, 2016, as the Lok Sabha passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016: 'The Law cannot Fix what Technology has Broken!' and 'The New Bill Makes Aadhaar Compulsory!'
  • CIS submitted an initial list of recommendations to the Members of Parliaments to highlight the aspects of the Bill that require immediate attention. The recommendations were prepared by Amber Sinha, Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Sunil Abraham, and Vanya Rakesh.
  • In an article titled Flaws in the UIDAI Process published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Hans Varghese Mathews. He stated that the Government of India is engaged upon biometrically identifying the entire population of India. An experiment performed at an early stage of the programme has allowed us to estimate the chance of a false positive: and from that to estimate the proportion of duplicands. For the current population of 1.2 billion the expected proportion of duplicands is 1/121, a ratio which is far too high.
  • Vipul Kharbanda wrote an analysis of Aadhaar Act in the context of Justice A.P. Shah Committee Principles. The analysis has thrown light on the substantial aspects of the Act in relation to privacy concerns which have been raised by a number of experts.
  • Pooja Saxena and Amber Sinha produced two infographics that 1) evaluate the Aadhaar Bill 2016 against the National Privacy Principles, and 2) highlight the vulnerabilities in the UIDAI implementation process not addressed by the Aadhaar Bill, 2016.
  • CIS has initiated the CIS Papers series with a fascinating exploration of humanitarian use of big data and its discontents by Sean McDonald, FrontlineSMS, in the context of utilisation of Call Detail Records for public health response during the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
  • With the objective to sensitize and impart the skillset in handling NVDA – the Screen Reader and the usage of BookShare Online Library for the print disabled to the Special Educators, Karna Vidya Technology Centre in collaboration with Computer and Internet Society conducted a one-day workshop on February 27, 2016. 48 special educators participated and benefited from the workshop.
  • An article titled 8 Challenges In Growing Indian-Language Wikipedias by Subhashish Panigrahi was first published in Huffington Post on March 19, 2016. This was cross-posted in Medianama titled as Multiple key factors preventing Indic Wikipedia growth on March 21, 2016.
  • CIS has published a report on the 30th Session of WIPO-SCCR giving an analysis of the Broadcast Treaty Negotiations and the Negotiations on International Instrument for Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives.
  • Anubha Sinha wrote an essay titled Fueling the Affordable Smartphone Revolution in India as part of the The Good Life in Asia's Digital 21st Century essay collection. She stated that smartphones have emerged as the exemplar of mankind's quest for shrinking technologies. They embody the realization of a simple premise – that computing devices would do more and cost less. This realization has been responsible for modern society's profound transformations in communication, governance, and knowledge distribution.
  • Rohini Lakshané wrote an analysis of the patent landscape in a research paper titled Patents and Mobile Devices in India: An Empirical Survey. The paper has indicated that although India has the second-largest wireless subscriber base in the world, with more than 150 mobile device vendors, it has, until recently, remained relatively unaffected by the global smartphone wars.
  • The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, has constituted a National Expert Committee for developing a draft National Geospatial Policy (NGP) to provide appropriate guidelines for collection, analysis, use, and distribution of geospatial information across India, and to assure data availability, accessibility and quality. A pre-drafting consultation meeting for the NGP was organised in Delhi on February 3, 2016. Anubha Sinha attended the meeting.
  • The glue that allows infrastructures to link and operate efficiently is standards as they make technologies interoperable and efficient tells Vanya Rakesh in a blog entry titled Adoption of Standards in Smart Cities - Way Forward for India.
  • P.P. Sneha wrote a blog post which studies the digital creative industries in India while examining some initial questions. She stated that the term ‘creative industries’ has been around for a while now, but with the advent of the digital, and with interest from different sectors, especially with a focus on policy and economic development, it would be essential to critically examine the discourse around the term, and see where it may be changing to open up new possibilities, particularly for the arts, humanities and design.
  • CIS strongly condemns the acts of sexual harassment that took place against one of its representatives Padmini Baruah during ICANN 55 in Marrakech. It is completely unacceptable that an event the scale of an ICANN meeting does not have in place a formal redressal system, a neutral point of contact or even a policy for complainants who have been put through the ordeal of sexual harassment. ICANN cannot claim to be inclusive or diverse if it does not formally recognise a specific procedure or recourse under such instances.

Accessibility & Inclusion
India has an estimated 70 million persons with disabilities who don't have access to read printed materials due to some form of physical, sensory, cognitive or other disability. As part of our endeavour to make available accessible content for persons with disabilities we are developing a text-to-speech software in 15 languages with support from the Hans Foundation. The progress made so far in the project can be accessed here.

►NVDA and eSpeak

The workshops were conducted earlier but published recently on our website:

Access to Knowledge
As part of the Access to Knowledge programme we are doing two projects. The first one (Pervasive Technologies) under a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is for research on the complex interplay between pervasive technologies and intellectual property to support intellectual property norms that encourage the proliferation and development of such technologies as a social good. The second one (Wikipedia) under a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation is for the growth of Indic language communities and projects by designing community collaborations and partnerships that recruit and cultivate new editors and explore innovative approaches to building projects.

►Pervasive Technologies


Blog Entries


As part of the project grant from the Wikimedia Foundation we have reached out to more than 3500 people across India by organizing more than 100 outreach events and catalysed the release of encyclopaedic and other content under the Creative Commons (CC-BY-3.0) license in four Indian languages (21 books in Telugu, 13 in Odia, 4 volumes of encyclopaedia in Konkani and 6 volumes in Kannada, and 1 book on Odia language history in English).


Participation in Event

  • BHASHA-Indian Languages Digital Festival (Organized by news media YourStory; March 11, 2016; New Delhi). Subhashish Panigrahi gave a talk in the panel “The challenges of making regional language content available on the Web and on mobiles.
  • 8th IBA International Conference (Organized by Indus Business Academy; March 24 - 26, 2016; Bangalore). Dr. U.B. Pavanaja gave a talk on Democratizing of Knowledge Access- Case of Regional Language Wikipedia.
Our work in the Openness programme focuses on open data, especially open government data, open access, open education resources, open knowledge in Indic languages, open media, and open technologies and standards - hardware and software. We approach openness as a cross-cutting principle for knowledge production and distribution, and not as a thing-in-itself.
Internet Governance
As part of its research on privacy and free speech, CIS is engaged with two different projects. The first one (under a grant from Privacy International and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is on surveillance and freedom of expression (SAFEGUARDS). The second one (under a grant from MacArthur Foundation) is on studying the restrictions placed on freedom of expression online by the Indian government.
►Big Data
Blog Entry

►Freedom of Expression
Blog Entries

Participation in Events

CIS is involved in promoting access and accessibility to telecommunications services and resources and has provided inputs to ongoing policy discussions and consultation papers published by TRAI. It has prepared reports on unlicensed spectrum and accessibility of mobile phones for persons with disabilities and also works with the USOF to include funding projects for persons with disabilities in its mandate:

    Researchers at Work
    The Researchers at Work (RAW) programme is an interdisciplinary research initiative driven by contemporary concerns to understand the reconfigurations of social practices and structures through the Internet and digital media technologies, and vice versa. It is interested in producing local and contextual accounts of interactions, negotiations, and resolutions between the Internet, and socio-material and geo-political processes:

    Blog Entry

    News & Media Coverage

    CIS gave inputs to the following media coverage:

    About CIS

    The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is a non-profit organisation that undertakes interdisciplinary research on internet and digital technologies from policy and academic perspectives. The areas of focus include digital accessibility for persons with diverse abilities, access to knowledge, intellectual property rights, openness (including open data, free and open source software, open standards, open access, open educational resources, and open video), internet governance, telecommunication reform, digital privacy, and cyber-security. The academic research at CIS seeks to understand the reconfigurations of social and cultural processes and structures as mediated through the internet and digital media technologies.

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    ► Request for Collaboration
    We invite researchers, practitioners, artists, and theoreticians, both organisationally and as individuals, to engage with us on topics related internet and society, and improve our collective understanding of this field. To discuss such possibilities, please write to Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, at [email protected] (for policy research), or Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Research Director, at [email protected] (for academic research), with an indication of the form and the content of the collaboration you might be interested in. To discuss collaborations on Indic language Wikipedia projects, write to Tanveer Hasan, Programme Officer, at [email protected].
    CIS is grateful to its primary donor the Kusuma Trust founded by Anurag Dikshit and Soma Pujari, philanthropists of Indian origin for its core funding and support for most of its projects. CIS is also grateful to its other donors, Wikimedia Foundation, Ford Foundation, Privacy International, UK, Hans Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and IDRC for funding its various projects.

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