social media platforms

Why it’s time to regulate social media platforms now?

by | May 28, 2021 | Analysis, Viewpoint

It’s been fashionable to criticize governments, but the fact is that today’s social media platforms wield much power and shoulder little responsibility.
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In the last two decades, social media platforms have gotten too big  and powerful but have mostly shrugged responsibility. Moreover, the big ones are literally without competition in their respective markets. There is no close direct competitor to a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, et al.

In this sense, social media platforms have become analogous to governments that are either free of any opposition or have a very weak opposition to contend with. Isn’t that what we call nonconductive to democracy?

Indeed. Be it Facebook, WhatsApp, or Google, they keep changing privacy policies. Sometimes these changes are to meet the regulatory requirements of the markets they operate in but often these changes are also at their wills (I chose not to use whims here) and fancies. Mostly, these changes are to suit their commercial interests, period.

Arm-twisting users to accept new privacy rules

Take the most recent and glaring instance of WhatsApp, for example. In early 2021, the Facebook-owned social messaging behemoth decided to issue a new privacy-policy diktat to its more than 500 million users in India to take it (the new privacy policy) or leave it (use of the WhatsApp app). After the government didn’t approve of its new privacy policy, WhatsApp did a climbdown from its earlier stand. It has postponed the exit of those users who have not accepted its policy for now.

WhatsApp argues against the government’s new guidelines (see article) on the pretext of servicing the ‘privacy interest’ of its users. At the same time, it tries forcing a privacy policy on users that they don’t approve of, by making a blatant misuse of its dominant position in the social messaging market segment. (It may be noted that Telegram is a distant second to WhatsApp globally as well as in India).

See also: Ironic that WhatsApp breaches privacy but wants govt to practice it.

Sumant ParimalSumant Parimal, Chief Analyst at 5Jewels Research and a keen IT industry observer agrees, “When they (social media companies) want, they impose any kind of term and conditions on users while even compromising privacy of users, but when Indian government asks for something then they are citing privacy as reason for not complying.”

So, what recourse do users have against such misuse of power by these platforms? There is no social-media appellate who could step in to safeguard the democratic interests of netizens. They are left with no other choice but to approach real-world courts and governments, who sometimes do step in and intervene.

Has regulation become a need of the changed times?

There is a thin line between democracy and anarchy, just as there is a thin line between freedom of speech and indecency of speech.

Social media is a platform that espouses the tenets of democracy and freedom of speech but where these cherished values can easily be sucked by dungeons of anarchy and indecent speech.

Worse, social media–and more so the social messaging platforms—can be misused by criminals and terrorists for perpetuating their respective agendas. Tech media is often replete with news of various cybercrimes ranging from digital frauds and cyber stalking to ransomware attacks.

Is government-led regulation of social media platforms needed?

Let’s be fair—the average internet user faces a perennial dilemma whenever the topic crops up. Netizens tend to see government interventions as a double-edged sword, which can cut both ways. There have been numerous instances in the past when netizens have opposed steps taken by governments to regulate the internet.

There are obvious reasons for users to be distrustful of both the government and the internet companies when it comes to protecting their freedom of speech and expression, particularly on social media platforms.

While the average utopian users will quite likely be fine with an intervention that rids social media platforms of obscenity, violence, and disharmonies of all kinds, they may not like any intrusive policing and patrolling of their social walls and communities.

Alas, internet is no longer the global village it was conceived to be!

Nevertheless, with the right regulatory mechanisms in place, it can be made a lot better than what it is today.

Verified accounts are a good way to autoregulate

Anshuman TiwariAnshuman Tiwari, a well-known process transformation professional, podcaster, and YouTuber has summed it up aptly, “So there is this chaos around the banning of some social media services in India. While we can debate the interest and logic in doing this, there is a huge opportunity to sort this mess. All social media should be ‘verified.’ Verified accounts will behave better. And the trolls will be careful. Essentially, what you can’t say in real life and get away with should also be not said online.”

A lot of people will lose a lot of ‘followers’ though, he quips.

A good thing is that amidst all the recent social-media din and commotion in the wake of the Intermediary Guidelines issued earlier by Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), there has been some positive development on the front. Most significantly, Twitter has recently said it will enable a system for users to verify their Twitter accounts. It noted on its official website, “Starting May 20, 2021, we’ll begin rolling out verification applications to everyone. If you don’t see it in your Account Settings tab right away, don’t worry! Everyone should be able to apply soon.”

It is a well-known fact that getting an account ‘verified’ on Twitter has historically been one of the most arduous and hard-to-achieve tasks for a common Twitterati.

Multi-stakeholder regulation can infuse trust

When it comes to the wider impact of social media, there are multiple stakeholders at play. These include the general users, the government, the opposition, public figures, businesses, academia, judiciary, and the social media platforms themselves, among others.

So, a panel that comprises representations from several of these stakeholder groups should ideally be allowed to monitor, judge, and moderate the social media platforms. Such a measure would help alleviate the apprehensions that the new rules and regulations may be misused by a government in power.

It would also ensure that social media has not just power, but also shoulders the responsibility that is required of an internet intermediary in today’s context. With up to half of India’s eligible population (less than 13/14 years of age) likely to be on one social media platform or the other, there indeed is a need to ensure that these platforms are not used by elements that are detrimental to the society and the nation.

Indeed, when too much power, direct or indirect, gets concentrated in any institution or platform, it is important to put the right set of checks and balances in place.

By issuing the intermediary guidelines, the government has done well to put the necessary checks in place. What it needs to do now is to balance it all by constituting a multi-stakeholder mechanism (panel) to monitor any potential breach and recommend any corrective measures or punitive actions to the concerned government authorities.

This way, the panel itself works like an intermediary between the government and the social media companies as well as between the users and the government or the social media companies.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

At least 2022 until pre-COVID normal returns: Study

At least 2022 until pre-COVID normal returns: Study

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe has put a big question mark on returning to pre-COVID normalcy this year. According to a recent survey by KPMG, despite improved confidence, most of the enterprises are apprehensive if the business would return to normal until 2022. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

According to the findings revealed by the 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, 45% of the top executives expect that the pre-COVID normalcy would return sometime in 2022 instead of the 31 % who expected the transformation to happen sometime later this year.

This report is a stark contrast to the earlier sign in late 2020 that things would be back to normal for businesses by late 2021. Early last year, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 cases impacted the business continuity of several enterprises drastically. It paved the way for distributed, remote working culture and transformed businesses’ go-to-market action plans across the globe.

The Pulse survey findings are based on the responses received from 500 global CEOs (of companies that have annual revenue over US$500M) in February and March this year. The CEOs from the world’s leading companies across 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the USA) were asked to provide their 3-year outlook on the economic and business landscape, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Employee safety and vaccination top priority

For most CEOs, the pace of vaccination distribution is among the top factors that will influence their decision to resume physical offices and return to pre-COVID normalcy. About 55% of CEOs shared that they were anxious about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to their employees. Not surprisingly, 90% of the leaders are contemplating asking their workforce to resume offices only after they are vaccinated.

One-third (34 percent) of global executives are concerned about distortion of facts on COVID-19 vaccine safety and the influence of this misinformation on the employees deciding not to administer the vaccine. Twenty-one percent of organizations will ask clients and guests who were visiting their facilities if they have been vaccinated, and 26 percent planning to significantly reduce global travel until the pandemic situation placates.

For half of the CEOs, increasing awareness around workforce stress and societal issues remains a high priority. They plan to increase their HR resources to help manage employee wellbeing and mental health.

The digital transformation continues to be a focus area

The acceleration of digital transformation continues to be a top boardroom agenda for CXOs with a deep focus on deploying strong collaboration channels. 74% of business leaders in the survey report that their organization’s digitization efforts have been accelerated significantly, up from 50% in August 2020.

Understandably, for most business honchos, new digital business models, developing seamless customer delivery models and revenue streams remain a key focus. Across organizations, the understanding of the growing threat landscape has also increased. Most CEOs, according to the survey, are planning to increase their investments in beefing up the cybersecurity capabilities that could enable them to innovate confidently and provide consistent value to their clients. (See: Combating cyber threats in the new normal).

Vinod Bhatt joins Vistara as its new CIO

Vinod Bhatt joins Vistara as its new CIO

Vinod Bhat Vistara CIO

Vinod Bhat, CIO, Vistara.

Tata SIA Vistara has appointed Vinod Bhat as the new Chief Information Officer (CIO).  Vistara is a joint collaboration venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.

Bhatt has joined Vistara after working with Tata’s IT Services company TCS for around three decades, where he was Global Business Head – Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG): UK, Ireland & Europe & Delivery Center Head.

In his new role at Vistara, Vinod Bhatt will be responsible for leveraging digital technologies and enabling advancements in the IT infrastructure. He will be closely working with business, partners, and other stakeholders of Vistara for driving operational excellence at the full-service airline. Bhatt will report to Vistara’s CEO, Leslie Thng.

A long association with Tata

Vinod Bhatt started his career in 1993 with TCS as a program manager and team lead and managed various IT leadership roles at the IT major. He replaced Ravinder Pal Singh, who quit TCS in January this year.

At TCS, Vinod Bhatt managed complete P&L for UK and Europe, including Unit strategy, business growth, delivery, customer interactions at the CXO level, driving business benefits for our customers, Managing Margins, and other operational parameters. During the last 17 years at TCS, Bhatt worked at CXO level clients and helped them realize business benefits.

Academically, Bhatt finished his Masters’s in Engineering from the University of Hyderabad. Vinod Bhatt is also a Certified Quality Analyst (CQA) from the Quality Assurance Institute, US.

About Tata SIA Airlines

Tata SIA is a joint venture of Tata Sons Private Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited (SIA). Incorporated on November 5, 2013, Tata Sons holds a 51% stake in the partnership, and Singapore Airlines owns 49% stake. The company is registered as TATA SIA Airlines Limited.

The carrier has a five-member Board, comprising its Chairman, Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Ex-MD of Titan Company Ltd, Directors-on-Board, Mr. Lee Lik Hsin, Executive VP (Commercial) Singapore Airlines and independent Directors Mr. Som Mittal, former President & Chairman Nasscom, Ms. Sangeeta Pendurkar, CEO, Pantaloons (Aditya Birla Group) and Mr. S. Padmanabhan, Executive Chairman – Tata Business Excellence Group & Group Chief Ethics Officer, Tata Sons.

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Fueling DX through data protection modernization

Fueling DX through data protection modernization

In the age of hyper-competition and elevated uncertainty, digital transformation (DX) has become a top boardroom agenda for organizations. However, amidst this rush of transformation and adaptation, a wide array of challenges have also sprung up. One of the significant constraints impacting the digital transformation initiatives is growing data loss incidents witnessed by organizations. This calls for immediate measures around data protection modernization.

According to a recent Data Protection Report 2021 by backup and disaster recovery firm Veeam, most data backups are susceptible to failure. This puts many businesses at severe risk of data loss and cyber attacks as they plan their digital transformation journey.

The dispersed workforce environment has shifted everything on the cloud. The traditional workplace models have thrown out of the gear and pushed businesses to modernize their data protection strategies and move their workloads from data centers to the cloud. The failure to revive their data backup efforts can jeopardize their growth prospects and significantly affect their goodwill.

The Veeam report asserts that more than half (58%) of backup recoveries fail, and about 14% of the data are not even backed up in organizational ecosystems. Based on the inputs gathered from 3000 IT decision-makers in global enterprises, the report says that IT leaders are examining ways to immediately solve their critical data protection needs. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

Exposed digital deficiencies of unprepared organizations

The DX strategy aims to enhance the organizational ecosystem where data play a crucial role in delivering an exceptional user experience and outsmart the competition. And if the information itself is susceptible to attacks or lacks good recovery tools, enterprise DX initiatives are doomed for failure.

Due to the abrupt external pressure and sudden changes required to maintain business continuity, many CIOs and enterprises didn’t get enough opportunities to plan their digital transformations seamlessly. According to the Veeam report, 91 percent of the survey respondents mentioned an unprecedented increase in cloud services used during the pandemic.

The inadequate data protection modernization efforts posed significant pressure on IT systems, and IT heads that are already laden with a rapidly evolving IT landscape comprising a mix of traditional on-premise infrastructure.

“In response to the COVID-19, we have seen organizations accelerating DX initiatives by years and months to remain in business. However, the way data is managed and protected continues to undermine them. Businesses are being held back by legacy IT and outdated data protection capabilities, as well as the time and money invested in responding to the most urgent challenges posed by COVID-19. Until these inadequacies are addressed, the genuine transformation will continue to evade organizations,” says Danny Allan, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Product Strategy at Veeam.

Best way forward

In their bid to data protection modernization, many organizations are increasingly looking at integrating data protection as a service (DPaaS) to minimize their dependency on in-house infrastructure and resources. The backup solutions are moving from on-premise to the cloud.

As part of modernizing data backup strategy, it is a good practice for enterprises with distributed workforce across locations to move their data backups to cloud ecosystems.

Solutions such as Backup-as-a-service are also becoming an appealing alternative since they allow organizations to invest only as per their need, ensure data availability for different time spans as per their need, and remove the dependency on the on-premise resources.

The key to successful AI implementations

The key to successful AI implementations

Most enterprises today are swiftly exploring the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Companies operating on archaic models have started to lose customers in the digital age and cannot accelerate their go-to-market strategies. However, according to various industry estimates, about 80% to 85% of AI implementations hit a dead end despite this growing understanding. The secret to successful AI implementations is a comprehensive approach that encompasses the integration of people, processes, and technology.

One of the primary reasons for this high failure rate is businesses’ inability to shortlist the primary growth objectives they wish to achieve. With the enterprise business landscape is becoming complex at an incredible pace, the time for organizations to be on edge for AI is over. No longer can they focus on deploying AI-related tools without building a solid business orientation.

Look for the unique business needs

The growing focus on digital and changing patterns of consumer preferences has compelled businesses to take a deep dive in long-term strategical technology deployment decisions.

Through successful AI-enabled implementations, firms can predict customer behaviors, analyze process anomalies, predict market uncertainties, optimize supply chains, and better manage employee and customer expectations.

Before embarking on the AI journey, enterprises should evaluate the business impact that AI can bring. Today, the advantages of AI have been leveraged for diverse tasks and processes. However, not all operations are fit for an AI use case. There’s no one size fit all methodology for AI-based applications, and the use cases where you intend to build AI must be clearly defined and prioritized.

“IT leaders must adopt a well-thought-out plan for AI adoption. Conversations must be struck with several business leaders (finance, customer success management, business operations, product development, and other management) to identify the relevant business goals tied to the IT domains. This approach will ultimately lead to the selection and prioritization of appropriate use cases,” said Greesh Jairath, Global IT Head at ITC Infotech.

Involve people in your strategy

More than technology, successful AI implementations need full support from the people within an organization. Most of the problems arise due to half-baked AI orientation strategies with the internal staff.

One needs to understand that transformation through AI doesn’t work on its own to solve a problem. You need people to understand and supervise at some level to deploy and analyze the predictive analytical solutions. To ensure that the processes are automated seamlessly, strong executive leadership is also essential. The more informed and engaged is the people inside the organizations, the better are the chances of successful AI adoption within an enterprise.

If you’ve just focused on deploying AI tools and not making any efforts to improve the organization’s cultural impact, the chances of AI failures will be on a higher side. (See: Five key steps to a successful RPA implementation)

Lack of in-house talent

Another challenge that technology leaders face is the acute shortage of qualified in-house talent who can manage end-to-end AI projects and tools. An effective AI model involves a lot of raw data that needs to be arranged systematically and processed for meaningful insights.

By consuming enormous data, the AI-based deep learning algorithms interpret and make decisions for a specific process. However, if you do not have the right people to analyze what data to be fed and understand why specific data is essential for an operation, your entire effort can go in vain.

Besides, CIOs have a tremendous challenge in fine-tuning their internal operations and reducing costs in light of growing ambiguity and uncertainty. In this context, investing significantly in training and building an internal talent pool may not be wise, especially when competitors are ready to poach skilled resources. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?)

Many technology firms such as Google and Microsoft are offering drag and drop no-code AI solutions to tackle this issue. These ready-to-deploy frameworks can help companies develop world-class predictive modeling capabilities without investing immensely to build coding skills internally. These modules can help businesses design and scale AI-based processes and workflows at a large scale.

Salesforce appoints Sanket Atal to drive India growth

Salesforce appoints Sanket Atal to drive India growth

Salesforce Sanket Atal

Sanket Atal, Managing Director–India, Salesforce.

CRM major Salesforce has appointed Sanket Atal as its new Senior Vice President and Managing Director of India. Atal, 53, is coming from financial software firm Intuit India and has earlier held leadership positions at Oracle and CA Technologies.

Salesforce said that Sanket would be instrumental in driving the next phase of growth for the company and focus on operational execution and achieving a breakthrough customer experience. Sanket will assume his new role from today, March 15, 2021, and report to Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO, and chairperson, Salesforce India.

The CRM giant is banking big on the new opportunities emerging by enterprises’ and small and medium businesses’ growing focus around customer-centric digital transformation.

Strong focus on the Indian market

The pandemic has paved the way for new ways of working, and enterprises are exploring the role of digital to catalyze the global recovery. In a bid to accelerate digital transformation, enterprises are rapidly turning to CRM providers such as Salesforce to deliver intelligent and connected user experiences across every touch point of their operations.

Over the last few years, Salesforce has been investing significantly in developing partner ecosystems, technology up-gradation, and talent expansion in India to support its growing customer base. For Salesforce, India has become a critical market strategically as it grew its workforce in the country to 4000 employees spreading across Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. “India is a strategic growth market for Salesforce and a world-class innovation and talent hub. Sanket’s appointment demonstrates our commitment and continued investment in India,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO, and Chairperson, Salesforce India, in a statement.

Its Hyderabad center provides global support to enterprises and the largest for the company in India. Salesforce is also adding new end-to-end capabilities and resources in its Hyderabad-based Center of Excellence (CoE) as part of its expansion plans. Last year, the US Cloud service provider also appointed Arundhati Bhattacharya to head its India operations. Arundhati is a former SBI Chairperson and was the first woman to lead the country’s most prominent public sector bank (SBI).

Apart from Oracle and SAP, Salesforce competes in the Indian market with Zoho and Freshworks. It has local clients such as redBus, Franklin Templeton, Snapdeal, and CEAT.

Adding flexibility in its solutions

Salesforce is adding new capabilities to bring much-needed flexibility for businesses that are accelerating their digital transformation goals. For instance, it has recently launched a unique solution, Hyperforce, in India. The new architecture will enable CRM major’s customers to run all existing Salesforce solutions in the public cloud and select where their data is hosted.

The platform’s key features are: higher compute capacity, ease of cloud resources deployment into the public cloud, minimize implementation time from months to weeks, and backward compatibility.

In India, Salesforce’s Sanket Atal’s responsibilities will also encompass spearheading new revenue channels such as growth from collaboration solutions that have become essential in ensuring business continuity and providing an exceptional experience for a growing distributed workforce. Notably, to compete closely with the likes of Microsoft’s Teams, Salesforce has also acquired workplace chatting app Slack in a massive $27.7 billion cash and stock deal a few months back. (See: Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint)

Apple strengthens India focus by enhancing local production

Apple strengthens India focus by enhancing local production

American multinational technology firm Apple has strengthened its India focus by announcing its 2020 flagship smartphone, iPhone 12, in India. “We are proud to be starting the production of the iPhone 12 in India for our local customers,” Apple said in a statement.

The move, which is a part of Apple’s larger strategy to strengthen its focus in India, will equip the company to cut the government import duties and pass-on the cost-benefit to the end consumers. Through its partners such as Foxconn and Wistron, Apple has already assembled several previous smartphone editions such as iPhone 11 and XR in India.

The move is also crucial for India in light of the growing trade war scenario between the US and China. Over the last two years, many American telecom companies have cut down their output in China and exploring countries like India, the Philippines, and Malaysia for manufacturing opportunities. (See: Will Apple bite India’s manufacturing bait?)

Strategic measures in India

The market share of Apple in India smartphone market share may still be less than 5%. However, it is steadily building focus in India through several tactical measures. The premium smartphone maker has successfully partnered with online majors such as Flipkart and Amazon to sell its previously launched iPhone editions, wearable, and accessories at a heavy discount in India.

Apple is also focusing on accelerating its reach through refurbished smartphones, a segment growing at a pace of well over 10% in India. The company’s refurbished phones in India are also highly sought after due to their low cost, helping many first-time buyers testing Apple’s capabilities without shelling out the exorbitant price.

Additionally, it has collaborated with several banks and financial institutions to offer its premium products at attractive price-points or through cashback offers. Another strategic decision that the company took last year was unveiling its exclusive online store in India. It has started offering nearly the entire line-up of its products and range of services in the country. India has become one of the 38 countries where Apple has launched its online store (See: Apple India debuts online store, eyes more market share).

These measures have helped Apple shipped a record 1.5 million+ iPhone units in India in the quarter that ended in December 2020. Despite that, Apple knows that they have only taken baby steps in the world’s second-largest smartphone market. “If you take India as an example, we doubled our growth last quarter compared to the year-ago quarter. But our absolute level of business, there is still quite low relative to the size of the opportunity,” said Timothy Donald Cook, Apple CEO in 2020.

Apple is also bolstering its online store capabilities by launching a few physical outlets in India, building more trust in its products and services locally.

Emerging markets a focus area

Overcoming the stalled growth due to the pandemic triggered an anxious economic environment. Apple has surprised many soothsayers by achieving a quarterly revenue of $91.8 bn in Dec 2020, a 9 percent increase from the quarter a year ago.

While developed markets like the US, Singapore, UK, France, among others, continue to be the flagbearers of much of this revenue, in terms of growth, there has been a massive upsurge in sales for Apple smartphones in emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, Thailand, and Turkey.

While Apply may have overlooked India for a long due to its price-conscious structure, it has now understood strengthening focus in emerging economies to lift its market share and prepare for new growth opportunities.

The efforts of Apple to strengthen its focus in India are especially crucial for the company since most of its developed markets are now saturated. And on the contrary, India’s mushrooming digital economy and tech-savvy young generation offer tremendous opportunity for the innovative company Apple to sell its products and premium services albeit with a practical price-point.

 

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