Employees mark their attendance through Aadhaar based System Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India’s Big Leaky Data

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unabashedly declared that data is “real wealth,” which enable “whoever acquires and controls” it to attain “hegemony.” But to protect the people who are generating that wealth, Modi must follow through on his campaign promise to deliver “minimum government, maximum governance.”

NEW DELHI – India has no coltan or rare earths, little oil, and not enough water. What it does have is people – 1.3 billion and counting. That makes India potentially very rich in what has been called the “new oil”: data. But who will benefit from that wealth, and who might be put at risk?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi undoubtedly likes collecting data. Since becoming prime minister in 2014, he has led an enthusiastic campaign to expand digital governance, hailing its efficiency and extolling its capacity to transform the country.

Biometric devices are now used to track the attendance of students and teachers in schools, and of government employees at work. Following his disastrous demonetization scheme in 2016, Modi has urged Indians to make digital, not cash, payments, even for small transactions.

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