By Srinath Sridharan
Web 3.0 is shaped by the global developer community on the ideology of Internet decentralization. At least technically, with Web 3.0, BigTech platforms can be disintermediated and could have reduced power over the bottom line. If we have BigTech now, Web 3.0 would see more DeepTech. Content creators will have power over their content, not platforms as they currently do.
Between the 1970s and the 2000s, Internet technology and related businesses were largely dominated by companies from developed countries. India then did not have the political or consumer power to participate in policy-making on internet governance and global internet ‘platform’ possibilities. We’ve come a long way from being body shoppers to being a country with vibrant entrepreneurial energy and ideas driven by execution capital.
With ever-changing business applications, current consumer and policy conversations around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, battery technology seems vague, confused and in a state of disbelief as to the true potential and impact it could have on societal norms. Concerns about the singularity, when technological growth will become irreversible and uncontrollable, and bring serious changes to human civilization, must be respected and factored into any regulatory thinking as we move forward.
Governments still have concerns about social governance, as well as fears of “losing control”. The political concerns are diverse. Will any of the elements of Web 3.0 alter state control over the regulation of these entities? Will decentralization make internet regulation onerous for the state? Will any of these technologies pose national security concerns or cause systemic problems? Will they further complicate consumer protection issues and cyber risk issues? Can certain technologies be used as a weapon against another state or cohort?
Policy formation for the 21st century Internet will not only be about technology or consumerism, but also about the concept of global strategic business. Nations will need to leverage digital for growth, while facing the onslaught of faceless actors trying to undermine that same growth. However, policy makers will not have the opportunity to think much, as the global development of Web 3.0 products and solutions is progressing at high speed.
Over the past few years, India has used technology to shape its national socio-economic development. This technology has brought greater inclusion and impactful societal results. Be it Aadhaar, Jan Dhan, UPI, CoWin for Immunization or Digital Health Mission, India has built low cost, high impact tech innovation for a better life .
It is essential that India seizes this opportunity to decide which technologies it wants to use for social good. This is also where India should engage in global conversations and participate in establishing Web 3.0 standards and a policy framework for its regulations. But, politics from a “control” perspective alone could simply push tech into the “dark web,” or even drive young entrepreneurs to other global markets, like what we’re seeing now with the crypto confusion. . The idea of NFTs brings to the fore regulatory concerns about “market” definition, seller and buyer identification and taxation, intellectual property issues, and acceptance in the marketplace where the buyer, treating them as financial assets and related securities laws, money laundering, gambling laws and, in the case of geopolitical economic sanctions, the treatment of such assets.
With Metaverse, concerns revolve around the governance structures of these entities and how their intellectual property would be governed. This newer, parallel digital universe is quickly capturing the attention and interest of not only young people, but also tech-savvy non-millennials. Global celebrities and brands have also shaped the usage of Metaverse with their presence in this new universe. While this poses a challenge of comprehension to policy makers around the world, while forcing private investors to finance large sums to get them off the ground, we must prepare for more complex technological outcomes in the decades to come.
The world of Web 3.0, especially that of international relations, would have variables ranging from individuals, communities and coalitions to nation states, non-state actors and even international bodies, many of which are faceless and borderless. As a great democracy, India needs to think about how these technologies would influence public narrative, political ideologies, financial markets, global power structures and social behavior, and expand the concept of morality, societal values and ethics.
So any rulemaking around Web 3.0 must happen now, if it is to be for broader social stability and to keep liberalism balanced with respect for sovereignty. In this ‘webade’ (decade of Web 3.0), India must be at the table to shape the mainstreaming of Web 3.0: the future model of society that unfolds in the age of decentralized internet. We cannot afford digital colonialism or the authoritarianism of one country or one bloc.
According to estimates, Web 3.0 has the potential to contribute over $1 trillion to Indian GDP by 2031. With over 845 million internet (out of 4.95 billion users worldwide) and 518 million number of social media users in 2021, and a rapidly growing base, India is the second largest internet user in the world. New Internet users integrate, thanks to “Jiofication”. By 2040, the total number of internet users in India is expected to exceed 1.53 billion and yet the overall demographics will remain productive, with a median age of 35 years.
With such economic potential and a large user base, India needs to be at the forefront of shaping global policy for Web 3.0. At the same time, Indian contractors need policy and regulatory clarity on what to build and what is not allowed. The soft power of our demographics must be harnessed to shape the digital economy of the 21st century. India’s proactive and robust Web 3.0 policy towards other global sovereigns, both as a domestic policy strategy and a robust foreign policy, can enable convergence of content, context, communities, commerce, values fundamentals, the confidence of its entrepreneurs and the critical nature of significant societal development. Winning the future and shaping our digital destiny must start now in the global corridors of digital storytelling, with Web 3.0 policies.
The author is Corporate advisor and independent market commentator