Dr. Aakansha Natani, Assistant Professor, Human Sciences Research Centre, IIIT Hyderabad, spoke on Digital Sovereignty and Data Ownership Dilemmas in the Global South at a talk organised by the Department of Political Science. Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan chaired the lecture. The lecture provided a comprehensive overview of the complex issues surrounding digital sovereignty and data ownership dilemmas in the Global South. It underscored the need for interdisciplinary research and robust policy frameworks to address the challenges posed by rapidly advancing technologies.

Dr. Natani highlighted the dynamic nature of information technology and its profound impact on society. She discussed the evolving dilemmas surrounding data ownership, data protection laws, and global governance in the context of emerging technologies. The lecture emphasised the epistemological shift caused by the advent of artificial intelligence and data as the new means of production. This shift fundamentally alters the division of labour in 21st-century society.

Her lecture further discussed the dilemmas involved in data ownership; central to the discussion was the question of data ownership and the stakeholders involved, particularly contrasting approaches from the US, Europe, and China. The lecture explored the implications of shared ownership versus considering data as a public good. Following this, Dr. Natani elaborated on digital sovereignty, wherein governments seek to reassert their authority over the Internet.

She discussed different models of data ownership, including state control, market-oriented, and Individual citizen-centric. Connecting to these approaches, she underscored the confusion prevalent in the Global South regarding data ownership dilemmas. The debate revolves around whether data should be treated as a public good or privatised, with implications for surveillance frameworks. The lecture touched upon challenges related to data storage centres in the Global South, including resource-intensive operations and environmental concerns.

Toward the end of her lecture, she focused on the ethical concerns in AI by highlighting concerns regarding bias and discrimination. She cited examples such as the use of facial recognition technology by the Delhi police during the G20 summit to make her argument. The session concluded with a discussion on research questions about data as a tool for diplomacy and the digital divide in the Global South. Students actively engaged with the speaker, posing various questions about data ownership, surveillance, and legislative frameworks. Prof. Srinivasan provided valuable insights, enriching the discussion further.

Contributed by Athul T Dharan and Satyaki Barua, Department of Political Science