Private sector stakeholders who represent businesses that straddle emerging technologies have come together to form an industry lobby to better serve the interests of such businesses. Businesses from sectors such as drones, digital wallets, and online wealth management have lately been high of the government’s agenda in terms of getting regulatory frameworks in place.
Dubbed the Digital India Collective for Empowerment or DICE, the lobby has four working groups which will interact with the government’s Digital Sky initiative, Controller of Certifying Authorities for e-Sign, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for e-KYC and United Payments Interface (UPI) to address policy formation and represent business requirements for the respective industries.
The lobby has signed on companies from drone manufacturing and associated industries, digital wallet players using UPI, and online lending companies among others. It is yet to elect the board or heads for the four working groups.
Saranya Gopinath, co-founder of DICE, said that the lobby’s chief objective is to engage with regulators more effectively. That, for instance, didn’t happen in the context of the September Supreme Court judgement that struck down the provision of using Aadhaar for e-KYC operations, she told TechCircle.
Gopinath, previously general counsel at startup incubator Khosla Labs, had filed a petition in 2017 on behalf of a group of 59 private companies called the Coalition for Aadhaar. The group represented businesses which were dependent on the Aadhaar system for verification, lending and financial services. The group included companies such as bicycle-sharing app Yulu, members of the Digital Lenders Association of India which includes fintech startups such as CapitalFloat, Lendingkart, MoneyTap and Paisabazaar, among others.
“The private sector did not represent themselves adequately in the Aadhaar case in the Supreme Court. Since the social media conversations were very polarized, many of the private players stayed away. Now many of them feel that they should have galvanized themselves to present their point of view,” she said.
As co-founder of DICE, Gopinath will no longer be counsel to individual private companies and will instead work with the association to create working groups, representatives for these groups and bring about an organisational structure. “The rule of thumb (for DICE) has been to create a working group for distinct technology stacks. We are currently working on eSign, eKYC, UPI, and Digital Sky. More working groups will be added later. The member body is still being created as we speak. The drone working group is one of the mature ones,” she added.
The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) released a set of Drone Regulations 1.0 in August this year after consultations with multiple companies in the drone manufacturing, pilot training and services space. The regulations came into effect on December 1 and require different categories of drones to seek permission for operations through a single window app. These companies have come together as part of the drone working group in DICE to engage with DGCA in formulating Drone Regulations 2.0, which is in the works.
“The discussions started as part of the use of open source platforms and how companies can talk to the government for framework related queries. The broad mandate is for the India technology stack companies to speak to each other and collect the voice of each industry vertical in the context of the government framework,” said Gokul Kumaravelu, marketing lead at Bengaluru based enterprise drones solution provider Skylark Drones. The company is part of the working group on drones which has been an active participant in discussions on framing the Drone Regulations 2.0 with DGCA.
The role of DICE in bringing multiple stakeholders together and its influence as a nodal agency for consultation on regulations on new technology will determine how well industry players can represent their business interests to regulators and policy bodies. Incidentally, DICE's work will overlap with that of non profit industry body iSPIRT which has been a champion of India stack technology. The latter had come in for criticism from private companies who alleged that it acted as a gateway for fintech companies intending to integrate UPI. Companies who are a part of DICE are likely to be a part of other bodies as well including software services lobby NASSCOM.