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.

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Tech Mahindra earns place in Forbes Blockchain 50

Tech Mahindra earns place in Forbes Blockchain 50

Digital transformation, consulting, and business re-engineering services and solutions provider Tech Mahindra has been featured in the 2021 Forbes Blockchain 50 companies list, a coveted global listing of pioneering companies, startups, and influencers in the distributed ledgers space. Tech Mahindra announced that it has been recognized for its transformative and innovative platform-based approach in Blockchain implementations for global clients. Its implementation of enabling 500 million mobile phone customers in India to manage their consent and preferences to avoid spam calls and text messages, was specifically highlighted. (See: Tech Mahindra gets new blockchain accreditation)

In 2019, Tech Mahindra introduced a Blockchain-based solution using Hyperledger, to manage unsolicited commercial calls (or “spam” calls) in compliance with the regulations and guidelines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Forbes recognized this project as unique in its scale as it remains one of the largest live ledger implementations in the world to date. In its analysis for Blockchain 50 2021, Forbes highlights that this recognition is an illustration of the trend of globalization of blockchain technology and its incipient rise in Asia, in particular.

 “We are delighted to be recognized by Forbes as one of the leading blockchain organizations of the world. Tech Mahindra is leveraging Blockchain to solve tough business problems and create a completely differentiated experience for end-users through a combination of best-in-class platforms, product innovation, and deep domain expertise. It is indeed a matter of great pride that we are the only Indian company and only IT and digital services consulting company to feature in the coveted list,” said Rajesh Dhuddu, Practice Leader in Blockchain and Cybersecurity, Tech Mahindra in an official release.

Tech Mahindra has been focusing extensively on Blockchain technology and testing its capabilities across a wide range of business verticals.

 The USD, 5.2 billion organization with around 122000 employees across 90 countries, Tech Mahindra, provides a holistic framework called ‘Block Ecosystem’ comprised of various levers: Block Studio, Block Engage, Block Talk, Block Geeks, Block Accelerate, Block Access, and Block Value, which can be used to create applications that unlock significant value for clients. 

For more details on the Forbes 50 Blockchain list and accompanying commentary, click here and here.

Three key drivers that will shape cloud ecosystems in 2021

Three key drivers that will shape cloud ecosystems in 2021

2020 was one of the most challenging years in recorded history. With many paradigm-shifting developments, the year upended the lives of almost every person on this planet. Amidst the changing times that even left many soothsayers speechless, technologies such as the cloud emerged as a silver lining and enabled businesses and economies to adapt to the new normal and survive.

Cloud, which is the pillar of the data-intensive tech ecosystem, played a pivotal role during the pandemic to navigate the change, enabling enterprises to build effective supply chains and setting-up robust remote working environments for their expanded workforce. It empowered businesses to deliver essential services during the lockdown and successfully proved the possibility of creating a more sustainable world.

In 2021, cloud computing is expected to make an even more profound impact as most businesses would focus their strategies to recover from the pandemic. Let’s look at some of the key cloud computing requirements that will impact organizations’ tech ecosystems in 2021. (See: A case for cloud-enabled COVID-19 sensors and loggers)

1. Focus on new use cases

In 2021, cloud computing is expected to make even deeper inroads into organizations as most businesses would focus on building strategies to recover from the pandemic. In general, companies are likely to increase their dedicated IT spending to the cloud, opening the market for more innovations and new growth models.

Most importantly, with technologies like 5G around the corner, cloud service providers will have a massive role in developing new use cases using complementary technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation.

The battle of supremacy between top cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba is likely to become more intense in the year ahead.

Top cloud platforms — especially Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud — are expected to gain from this amplified focus. While AWS is likely to retain its supremacy, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba will continue to take aggressive steps to close the gap. To cater to the low-latency and high-redundancy capabilities required by several of these new applications, cloud service providers will look forward to adding intelligent edge capabilities in their solutions.

2. Hybrid and multi-cloud strategies to take center stage

As enterprises become more mature to understand the benefits of a strong cloud ecosystem, they also become more aware of adopting the multi-cloud approach to avoid the unnecessary risk of getting locked into certain vendors. And this cloud computing trend is likely to make a substantial impact in organizational tech ecosystems in 2021.

Kunwar Singh, Lead, Cloud Offerings portfolio across Microsoft Applications and Infrastructure Services, HCL, noted in an HCL blog post, “The hybrid cloud environment provides an essential blanket of security for mission-critical workloads, elasticity for delivery, and high performance to match the ever-growing need for constant innovation. To summarize, today, more than ever, hybrid cloud is an essential partner to businesses, as companies reposition themselves to maintain productivity, creating an efficient mobile workforce and staying poised to handle adversity.”

It is expected that organizations that plan to take a hybrid cloud route will focus on building an intelligent operative ecosystem to govern varied processes effectively.

3. More emphasis on governance and security

CIOs and technology leaders will continue to put more emphasis on deploying services without worrying about infrastructure overheads. Considering the continuous expansion of the distributed workforce, the industry will also focus on developing services and applications around network security, compliance, and privacy to secure sensitive data across the cloud ecosystem.

“For control, privacy, and regulatory concerns, private cloud has been leveraged to a greater degree as compared to public cloud services. From now on, the demand for public cloud services is also slated to rise along with a surge in private and hosted cloud models, ” says, Krishna Rao RV, Senior General Manager, IT AIG Hospitals.

While cloud security and governance will be a key focus area, it also remains one of the biggest challenges for organizations to expand their cloud programs. The industry is also battling with a massive shortage of IT Security professional talent and needs to find the best solution to resolve this issue. In the year ahead, there could be an upsurge of new talent programs and initiatives by the cloud computing providers to fortify necessary skill sets to drive further cloud adoption in enterprise tech ecosystems.

Mathan Babu Kasilingam joins Vodafone Idea as CISO

Mathan Babu Kasilingam joins Vodafone Idea as CISO

Mathan Babu Kasilingam

Indian telecom operator Vodafone Idea has appointed Mathan Babu Kasilingam as its new CISO and Data Privacy Officer. Kasilingam has joined the company in place of Amit Pradhan, who has recently quit the telecom operator to join Mandiant Consulting (Mandiant is a US-based firm that performs advanced cyber investigation, forensics, and incident response).

Kasilingam will be spearheading cybersecurity initiatives, digital security entities, data privacy compliance at Vodafone Idea in his new role. He will also have a huge responsibility to shoulder since data privacy and compliance has become a critical focus area for all the leading telcos.

This is the second technology leadership appointment that Vi has announced in the last four months. In November last year, the telco named Jagbir Singh as its new chief technology officer, following the exit of Vishant Vora. (See: Vishant Vora quits as CTO of Vodafone Idea).

Mathan Babu Kasilingam has over two decades of robust experience in the information security field. He has previously worked with companies such as the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), HDFC Bank, Symantec, Wipro Infotech, and BT Global Services in various security and data compliance domains. At NPCI, where he has worked for three years before moving to Vi, Kasilingam introduced several new initiatives and data protection practices.

Kasilingam holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar (SSN) College of Engineering and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. In his free time, Kasilingam loves playing badminton and enjoys listening to music. 

About Vodafone Idea (Vi)

Vodafone Idea Limited is a pan-India integrated GSM operator, offering 2G, 4G, 4G+, VoLTE, and VoWiFi services. With a subscriber base of 290 million, Vi is India’s third-biggest mobile telecom operator and sixth-largest globally. Vodafone’s Indian arm and Idea Cellular had merged their operations in August 2018 in a highly competitive Indian telecommunication market.

India needs a coherent industry approach for 5G success

India needs a coherent industry approach for 5G success

The last two decades have been instrumental in reshaping India’s economy. And the telecom sector has played a pivotal role in this transformation. From being voice dominated to data-centric, India’s telecom sector with over 1.17 billion connections has ensured businesses acquiring new capabilities, consumers obtaining new, exceptional services and resources. The industry is now keenly looking at the launch of 5G services to enter the next growth phase.

India’s top telecom operators have recently announced their plans to launch 5G this year. While Bharti Airtel has recently tested its live 5G network in Hyderabad using 1800 MHz spectrum, last year, Reliance Jio too had revealed its plans to launch 5G in the latter half of 2021 using standalone architecture.

There has been an upward trajectory of the learning curve, which has significantly helped the telecom sector attract global investments. Even during the COVID-19, the telecom sector, with its profound penetration of low-cost data and voice calls, kept the economy afloat and built necessary resilience. However, the 5G technology in India could realistically take at least a couple of years to make its emergence felt.  (See: Tipping point for 5G networks likely in 2023, says Report)

When introduced, 5G is likely to unleash the power of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the internet of things (IoT) to bring an altogether new era of hyper-user experience.

Laying the foundation for 5G success

Much of the 5G’s future in India would be dependent on the Indian government’s plan to leverage it for smart city services such as automating traffic signaling, street lighting, smart parking, real-time public transport information, and nursing public infrastructure through drones.

Unlike previous wireless standards, 5G needs a well-conceived industrial strategy. Many organizations are still grappling with limited device availability, policies and regulations, overhauling security architectures, and restricted use case success to form a concrete strategy around 5G.

While the Indian telcos may have set ambitious targets to be ready for commercial 5G services by the end of this year, the leap would be challenging, especially in the consumer segment, unless there is a broader range of affordable 5G devices are available.

Besides, the telecom operators, sitting on razor-thin margins, would need cost-effective but quality gear to support the new networks. This requirement could be well-supported by several flagship schemes launched by the Indian government, such as Digital India and Make in India.

Another crucial area for the success of 5G is the efficient and more customer-centric business models for enterprises. The fabric of business processes could get a turbo boost from AI-driven IoT.

While businesses are keen to know about the potential of 5G, they need to be made aware of the specific advantages offered by 5G compared to the legacy wireless technologies such as 4G and Wi-Fi. Telcos will need to demonstrate the successful use cases driven by 5G and its applicability in the Indian market. Otherwise, there is a fear that many enterprises could only see this up-gradation as an incremental improvement, which is not the case. (See: Here’s how 5G could be a catalyst for IIoT and Industry 4.0)

Resolving the telco’s dilemma

The immediate twelve months after the launch of 5G in India will be heavily focused on managing the cost and complexity of building out 5G networks, spectrum slabs, new revenue generation methodologies, and return on investment (RoI) for telecom operators.

They will also be under tremendous pressure to reimagine themselves as digital service providers while keeping a check on their operating expenses. From a user standpoint, considering the Indian economy’s price-conscious nature, telecom companies would need to reasonably launch their products and services without losing the quality quotient.

A well-crafted strategy, investment in new tools and network modernization, and comprehensive government policies will play a crucial role in addressing several of the above issues.

Learning from the global successes

In 2021, both enterprises and telecom service providers will be focusing on maintaining network services, deploying remote network monitoring solutions, expanding internet services, and undertaking research and deployments of global delivery centers.

The Indian government is also needed to develop innovative policy solutions to find the right spectrum price for forthcoming 5G auctions. Another most desirable attribute for 5G success is the availability of end-to-end solutions. Globally, many IoT-related developments are underway in remotely operated robotic surgeries, driverless vehicles, and several other connected devices and applications. India is likely to learn from the immersive experiences of global markets.

Moreover, telecom service providers will need further to develop their app ecosystems and partnerships with OTT players to garner more subscribers and ARPUs.

5G is likely to enable the next wave of industrial transformation with automated supply chain models and orchestration. However, the CIOs would look forward to lucid 5G plans from the telecom service providers rather than the transactional deliberations to achieve substantial outcomes from AI and IoT implementations.

TBZ CTO Dr. Pooran Jaiswal exits

TBZ CTO Dr. Pooran Jaiswal exits

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal.

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal, Chief Technology Officer of Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ) Limited, a leading jewelry brand, has quit the company. Dr. Jaiswal joined TBZ in 2018 and led IT budgeting and planning, technology improvement, and automation efforts at the jewelry retail chain.

TBZ has a presence in more than 29 Indian cities and is among the largest and oldest jewelers in the country.

Under Dr. Pooran Jaiswal’s leadership, TBZ, the 156-year-old jewelry major, enhanced several vital processes and improved customer experience by transforming its overall IT infrastructure and implementing robotic process transformation (RPT). He was instrumental in deploying Oracle’s Autonomous Database at TBZ, one of the first of its kind for any jewelry maker in Asia.

During his tenure at TBZ, Jaiswal also created a strong cloud strategy, moving the company’s workload-heavy processes to cloud-based infrastructure.

Jaiswal had also led several innovations such as testing and embedding small internet of things (IoT) devices in the premium jewelry category to analyze whether the jewelry had been tried, sold, or unsold.

Before joining TBZ, Dr. Jaiswal was CTO at Globus. With over 20 years of extensive experience in the IT industry, Jaiswal had earlier worked with Rediff and NIIT. It is not known yet if Jaiswal has accepted any new role, but if the industry buzz is to be believed, he is close to finalizing his next move.

About Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ)

Located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, TBZ is part of the organized jewelry markets with a strong legacy of 156 years. Today, the company’s operations spread across 26 cities and 11 Indian states, covering a total retail space of 110,666 sq. ft.

Historically, TBZ was the country’s first jeweler to offer buy-back guarantees for jewelry purchased through their stores in 1938. The company primarily sells gold jewelry and diamond-studded jewelry through its 37 showrooms, including five franchise-operated stores.

For other recent C-Track movements, click here.

Jeff Bezos passes on the Amazon baton to Andy Jassy

Jeff Bezos passes on the Amazon baton to Andy Jassy

Jatinder SinghNot many were entirely surprised to hear about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos stepping down from the CEO role in the third quarter of 2021. While this may be the most significant leadership movement so far in 2021, industry onlookers had already started to bet on how long Jeff will continue at the helm of Amazon!

And why not? The technology industry has seen successful transitions at Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet, companies who have achieved even greater heights after their founder CEOs paved the way for fresh leadership.

The change, however, is an important event for Amazon’s stakeholders and employees who will be looking for a new chapter of growth under the leadership of Andy Jassy, who will succeed Jeff. Andy is currently heading Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing division.

Jeff Bezos will shoulder the Executive Chair’s role, a strategic advisor to the CEO, and focus on new products and early initiatives being developed by Amazon. Bill Gates at Microsoft, Bob Iger at Disney, and Eric Schmidt assumed similar roles after stepping down as CEOs from their respective companies.

Fresh leadership perspective

Jeff Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in a garage in 1994 and made it one of the giant multinational technology behemoths through his sheer grit and visionary leadership. Over the years, the company has expanded its orbit from just being the e-commerce player to music and video streaming, providing cloud computing services, robotics, artificial intelligence, and more. However, it looks like Jeff is now convinced to pass the baton to a new leader who can bring fresh perspective and innovations to take the growth ahead.

In his own words, despite the remarkable success Amazon had achieved, Jeff had admitted in 2018 that the company is far from invincible and might fail one day. “If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not hundred-plus years,” Jeff had reportedly said.

Jeff Bezos knows that one needs to keep on reinventing to achieve continuous success. By handing over the baton to a new but proven leader, Amazon perhaps wants to add more oomph and shelve the qualms, if any.

Growing focus on cloud

Andy Jassy’s elevation also reflects Amazon’s upping the value chain by leveraging cloud and artificial intelligence, to diversify and grow.

The last few quarters saw a tremendous boom in Amazon’s e-commerce and grocery business, mainly due to the pandemic induced lockdowns and stay at home advisories. But, there are many challenges that the company might need to tackle to achieve profits from its e-commerce business. There is growing competition, supply chain modernization tests, and continuous pressure from retailers to reduce margins. Most of the profit that Amazon earns today comes from AWS. (See: AWS pumps $2.77 bn in India to retain cloud supremacy)

Amazon’s cloud business is the company’s cash cow division and achieving stellar heights. Currently, AWS contributes over 50% of Amazon’s operating income. AWS has clocked $12.7 billion in revenue, up from $9.95 billion a year earlier. In the wake of the growing distributed workforce environment, enterprises are quickly embracing cloud computing services to upsurge agility, deliver innovations, and modernize their infrastructure.

Clearly, Jeff Bezos and Amazon are betting big on the data and computing power in the new decade and aims to pull new rabbits out of the hat for accomplishing greater heights.

 

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