As we continue to face the global coronavirus pandemic, Twitter’s role in serving public conversation has never been more important. The service democratises access to information that is underpinned by an Open Internet. To underline the importance of which, Observer Research Foundation (@orfonline) and Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) hosted a panel discussion addressing why the COVID-19 pandemic calls for progressively strengthening India’s internet freedom.
— Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) June 2, 2020
Bringing the subject to the forefront, the panel was moderated by Mahima Kaul (@Misskaul), Director -Public Policy, Twitter South Asia, and featured the following as panelists: Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) – MP & Chairman – Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, Samir Saran (@samirsaran) – Observer Research Foundation, Bhaskar Rao (@CPBlr) – Police Commissioner – Bengaluru.
Shashi Tharoor: We want to protect the individual Indian’s rights to have access to the internet, to get good information from the internet and not to be denied the use of the internet
On the role of Open Internet during the global pandemic:
- There is no question that the internet has been an incredibly relevant player throughout the experience of the pandemic.
- Awareness definitely was the first major contributor and that is something the internet gets credit for, and for all the attempts to prevent the spread of the virus which also have educated people.
- Disseminating information regarding preventive measures and hygiene practices and even the talk about vaccines and immunity, all of the stuff was out there on the internet and that was very interesting.
- For many people the internet provided them an outlet for the stress they were under, the isolation they were under, and for the lack of social activity.
- I always believe that the best antidote to misinformation is good information.
- I think the internet economy brought economic activity online gradually.
- It (COVID-19 times) completely exposed the digital divide, it’s been a stark reminder of this entire experience for those of us who are privileged enough to be on the web, to be on the internet and are not like the 3.7 billion people on the planet who do not have access to the internet.
Samir Saran: The pandemic tells us that digital is now more than just a luxury or an option, digital today is life. The right to life and the right to livelihood and the right to express our thoughts are all implicated by our access to the digital so an Open Internet for India would be internet available to all
On what Open Internet means for people:
- It is essential to commerce and communications, and to now more important areas such as disaster relief and crisis management.
- For me, this Open internet would be the internet for all, internet available all the time and the information available to them that is important in a language that they can comprehend so people are able to express themselves with fear, without being bullied, scared offline or online and are able to access policy makers and leaders and political figures and the police folks and others using this very important medium.
- Since we are going to be transitioning to a digital life, one of the biggest efforts must be to create our cyber capabilities, cyber policing capabilities, our encryption capabilities, our decryption capabilities, our tracing capacities.
Bhaskar Rao: After roti, kapda, makaan, connectivity has now become a very important issue. When there is no roti, kapda aur makaan there are law and order problems. These law and order problems are going to exist when there is no connectivity also
Learnings on role of Open internet in times of COVID-19:
The internet has been our lifeline and in all ways we must and we should, as far as possible, have an independent internet which is unhindered but extremely localised at times that need control. But this control is not with a mala fide intention but to preserve peace in the larger interest of the society.
- Past 3.5 months, our learning curve on the internet has been very very steep. We have come to depend on it much more than what we depended on it for 3.5 months ago,
To help raise awareness of the importance of Open India, Twitter had also recently announced its support to the #KeepItOn campaign, with the launch of a special emoji. #KeepItOn is a coalition of more than 200 organisations — ranging from research centers to rights and local advocacy groups, detection networks, and media organizations — located within 75 countries around the world, fighting to end Internet shutdowns globally.
One truth that has come to bear over recent weeks and months is that what we are experiencing knows no borders. One of the elemental things powering our shared resolve at this unprecedented moment is the connected nature of our world, connectivity that is driven by the Internet.