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A lifetime of five years on the internet

by Prasad Krishna last modified May 20, 2013 09:04 AM
Centre for Internet and Society observes its fifth anniversary on Sunday.

The article by Subir Ghosh was published in DNA on May 19, 2013. Sunil Abraham is quoted in this.


Five years is a long time in the internet space. The past five years, certainly, has been. And so has it been for the Centre for Internet and Society that completes five years here.

When a group of citizens got together to come under a platform called CIS five years ago, they had wanted to work on policy issues about the internet that had a bearing on society. They, in fact, still do; except that the new media space itself has undergone a metamorphosis. Five years ago social media was just starting off, few people had smart phones, and online speech was not a burning issue.

Sunil Abraham, executive director of city-based CIS, affirms this, and goes on to assert: “Five years ago, privacy was not a mainstream concern. Today, many different actors and stakeholders are interested in the configuration of the draft Privacy Bill. We first warned the public about the draconian measures in the IT Act during the 2008 amendment. Four years later, many more people are familiar with problematic sections and are adopting various strategies to amend the Act and it’s associated rules.”

Likewise, five years ago, people dismissed “shared spectrum” as a pipe dream; today “shared spectrum” is mentioned in the National Telecom Policy. CIS usually thinks ahead, and works on a range of issues.

“For internet adoption in India to grow dramatically from the dismal statistics today, we need to ensure continued access to cheap devices and affordable and ubiquitous broadband,” says Abraham.

“With Ericsson suing Micromax for Rs100 crore, the mobile wars have come to India. If we have to protect innovation in sub-100 dollar devices, we need to configure our patent and copyright policy carefully.”

But since CIS works primarily on policy issues, shouldn’t it have been based in Delhi rather than in Bangalore? “We do have a small office in Delhi. But we are headquartered in Bangalore because we need to keep learning from technologists and the technical community,” explains Abraham.

When an organisation calling itself the Centre for Internet and Society (www.cis-india.org) observes its fifth anniversary, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that many of the activities related to the anniversary celebrations (May 20-23) have precious little to do with the internet, and is more about society itself. And yes, an entire evening is devoted to Kannada. There’s a talk by Chandrashekhara Kambara on ‘Kannada in the modern era,’ and another by UB Pavanaja titled ‘From Palm Leaf to Tablet – Journey of Kannada’.

“We are looking at the complete eco-system. For instance, during the digitalisation of TV in India, what will happen to the internet? Do TV promoting policies undermine the growth of broadband? On the second day we look at the connection between another older technology - cinema and the Internet.”

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