Regional Director South Asia, Friedrich Naumann Foundation
Before joining the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), I worked as a journalist for many years. I produced radio programmes and enjoyed communicating with an invisible audience over the airwaves.
Communicating with others is a human want, a basic necessity. Never in human history has communication changed as dramatically as in the past few years. We are in the midst of an ongoing revolution. The social media is a part of it.
All spheres of life are affected. Our private lives, the economy and, of course, also politics and the societies we live in. Never before have individuals networked more and at such ease as today. At the same time, the new formats of communication are fanning fi ssions and societal fragmentation. The relationship between the individual and society has changed — and will continue to change. Social stratification is challenged, and not everyone likes that.
The pace of these changes is without parallel — driven by technological innovations and fanned by greed to control markets and harvest profits.
In hardly any other place on earth, this dynamic is as tangible as here in India, for more than one reason. The technological push is driven by a political leadership who has declared ‘Digital India’ top priority. Also, India is a treasure trove if it comes to first class IT-managers and engineers. Arguably, the most important driver of the digital dynamics is the singular backlog demand of India’s masses. Investors, both local and foreign, are mesmerised by the notion to serve the accumulated needs of hundreds of million Indians who, rather sooner than later, want to connect to the Internet and are willing to spend considerable amount of money in the process. ‘Digital India’ is a gold mine in which corporate, political and also social interests flow together in a rare manner.
On the way to the digital future, various challenges need to be addressed. Topping the list are the dangers of a growing digital divide and a lack of media literary. If these issues are not dealt with strategically, the digital drivers will miss a historic chance to decrease the many inequalities haunting this great nation.
Social media has the potential to counter inequalities. It gives a voice to the voiceless and marginalised. It works as a social leveller and provides avenues of empowerment.
For me as a liberal, freedom of the individual is the most cherished good: the freer a society, the better the outcome for all citizens. Of course, we need regulations. However, the role of the state should be limited to safeguarding the rules of the game and preventing the creation of monopolies. These are poisons for economic freedom and innovation. What holds true for the offline economy is also valid for the emerging digital ecosystem.