Spotlight: India Conference for ITech Law, 2017

The 2017 India Conference for ITech Law was held from February 1–3 in New Delhi, as part of a series of conferences hosted annually by ITech Law, an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating the legal community about issues relevant to information and communication technologies across the world.

Those attending the India conference this year included in-house counsel from companies in the information technology and healthcare technology domains, as well as practitioners and advocates representing firms with specialized technology and intellectual property rights practices. Attendees were from the United States of America, Dubai, the United Kingdom and India — a diverse audience bringing a multiplicity of perspectives to the issues being discussed.

ITech Law conferences emphasize knowledge-sharing, and work towards achieving this by way of informative keynote addresses, insightful breakout sessions, and semiformal networking sessions. With the theme of this year’s India conference being ‘Future Technologies: Balancing Policy and Regulations to Foster Innovations’, the agenda of the conference included some very interesting panel discussions on topics such as net neutrality, the internet of things (IoT), the need to balance policy formulation with technological progress, new media and privacy. Selected summaries of the panel discussions can be found on the conference website, along with some photographs from the conference and the networking dinners.

Instead of focussing on individual panel discussions, we have chosen to emphasize some of the key inferences drawn from the speaker presentations, hoping to paint the larger picture of this year’s conference, and provide important information as a takeaway. Although an overriding premise of the India conference was that technology would continue its influence on our way of life and doing business, whether we consider the regulation of such technology an important social issue — and as a strategic decision for company heads — is something that remains to be seen.

The plenary session opened with questions relating to technology regulation, especially in the context of cognitive technologies. While Keshav Dhakad (Assistant General Counsel & Regional Director, Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft) acknowledged the excitement and innovation surrounding cognitive technologies, he was quick to bring our attention to the fact that these technologies also involve risks far higher than other technologies do. The question posed then was whether regulation was to be considered, and if so, how much? On the topic of risk, Sajai Singh (Chair, Corporate Commercial Practice, JSA) added that now more than ever, governments would have to work together in order to address issues such as cybersecurity and the role of artificial intelligence in the realm of big data.

Another issue that was discussed in great detail was data security. Although traditionally, the topic of data security has been the focus of a company’s tech team, according to Keshav Dhakad, this thinking is outdated. He stressed the importance of a different approach towards issues of cybersecurity; treating them as board-level issues of discussion rather than technical, in other words, emphasizing that threats such as these are too big to be ignored by the major decision makers of an organization or company. Citing examples from several industries including public relations, entertainment and technology, Keshav made the point that the magnitude of risk posed by poor security measures is not something to be taken lightly, and requires a vigilant eye, because measures need to improve in response to the rapidly changing landscape of data security threats.

Other interesting points made during the course of the conference included India’s rather aggressive interest in all things IoT, explained by some as India’s need to catch up to a market that has already taken off in most other countries. Some speakers were of the opinion that the connection between health and IoT is something the Indian government seems particularly keen to encourage. While it was agreed that the government’s interest in encouraging IoT stems from the right place, many speakers opined that the government’s endeavours seemed incomplete, owing to the fact that the new IoT policy lacks any information on the standards, compliances and infrastructure related to the regulation of these technologies, raising the fear that we’re treading on thin ice.

The India conference for ITech Law played host to lively discussions, both at the panels, as well as during the networking lunches and dinners, where a lot was discussed amongst some of the finest legal practitioners in the technology domain today. Other topics discussed related to innovation in food technologies, the outsourcing of work and an ever-popular topic of interest, drones. Our only criticism against the current focus of ITech Law India would be that once again, there was very little discussion on the interplay between technology, culture and creative expression. With new forms of art and expression becoming technologically possible (such as innovative projects like the Portals project, the emergence of data artists, and installation art projects), it becomes necessary that we expand our understanding of technology law to embrace these products of cultural and creative entrepreneurship.

We had a wonderful time at ITech Law 2017. Kudos to the hosts and sponsors who did a lovely job hosting such a wide spectrum of speakers and attendees. We would also like to thank Vahura, who provided us with the opportunity to be a part of the conference. We eagerly await the 2018 edition.

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