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India fights digital colonization

Justin Cabrera

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India is often recognized by experts as one of the most important territories in the world in regards to technological growth. Its huge population of 1.3 billion represents not only a huge marketplace but a huge workforce, especially in the technological sector.

Since freeing itself from British imperialism in 1947, India has grown to become one of the world’s premier emerging superpowers. However, as Web 2.0, globalization, and the rapid adoption of social media have gone underway, some experts fear India is going through an entirely new process of subjugation: digital colonization.

India’s digital landscape is completely dominated by American tech companies. The most popular video sharing site is YouTube, the most popular messaging app is WhatsApp, and the most popular social media platform overall is Facebook. The biggest competition India has is its e-commerce giant Flipkart, which is only barely beating Amazon in the country.

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Indian officials attribute this to a number of factors. Most notably, they say that local laws and regulations apply to Indian companies only, allowing American companies to come in and beat them. For example, Indian hotel booking websites must pay a pricy hotel tax, something their American competitors don’t have to do. This allows American booking websites to cheaply beat out the homegrown competition. American digital services already had a huge head start over Indian ones, and outdated regulations only widen the gap.

In response to this phenomenon, Indian officials are suggesting protectionist policies that give Indian digital services an overdue leg up from their foreign competition. American companies obviously oppose these regulations, saying that costs will increase and access to valuable Indian data will suffer.

What Indian officials intend to do is create a closed, China-like digital environment without completely shutting off the foreign digital services that millions of Indians love and use daily. By completely banning American digital services, China has since grown gigantic digital services like Alibaba, WeChat, and Baidu. While India is not trying to completely shut themselves off as China did, they’re hoping that harsher regulation on foreign services will allow them to create homegrown, competing digital corporations on the scale of Google or Facebook.

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