- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
- GS-3: Indian Economy
Ban on Chinese Apps
Context: The Union government on February 14, 2022 banned another set of Chinese apps (more than 50) over concerns related to privacy and national security.
The vaccum created by the ban of these apps should enable the Indian IT sector to create more hyper-regional and hyper-local applications and websites.
China’s Censorship barriers
- Chinese put up blinding shields on their own Internet territory more than a decade ago. The Chinese government began erecting censorship barriers (Great Internet Wall) and banned several popular Western websites and applications years ago.
- In January 2010, Google announced that it was no longer willing to censor searches in China and would pull out of the country completely.
- Meanwhile, in the intervening years since Google and others were forced out, the Chinese Internet market exploded, and has grown to over 900 million users, most of them on mobile (paradoxically via Google’s Android) from just over 300 million in early 2010.
- In hindsight, China’s censors look like superb long-range economic planners and technology strategists. The Great Internet Wall insulated Chinese entrepreneurs from Big Tech in Silicon Valley.
- Chinese home-grown firms such as WeChat and Alibaba had a field day building apps that were at first faithful reproductions of Silicon Valley, but soon morphed into distinctly Chinese applications tailored chinese market.
- Baidu has replaced Google in China. Youku Tudou is YouTube, and Xiaohongshu is a version of Instagram from which users can shop for goods directly.
- WeChat began as a simple messaging app, but is now many things for the Chinese (social media, news, messaging, payments, and digital commerce).
- According to the 2016 White House report, the Chinese have leapfrogged even the U.S. in AI research, especially in the components of “neural networks” and “deep learning”.
- In this case, the intellectual property being produced actually belongs to China and is not a faithful duplicate of someone else’s product or technology. This has far-reaching implications.
Chinese need for Indian Market
- With the rise of Jio, and the response from its competitors, the widening reach of Internet connection across the country will provide hundreds of millions of non-urban Indians with fluid access to the Internet.
- India now has the lowest Internet data costs in the world.
- China’s Internet ecosystem is entirely self-created, self-run, and self-serviced, yet it exports the newly banned apps such as Tik Tok and PUBG worldwide.
- In its attempt to dominate the rest of the world, the Chinese Internet industry needs India’s 500-plus million netizens to continue to act as a training ground for the AI algorithms they put together.
Benefits of banning of Chinese Apps by India
- India’s focus remains on exporting IT services while paying little attention to servicing our own nation’s tech market, even when Chinese and US companies are fighting for Indian market.
- The decision to ban such apps in India is not only a geopolitical move but also a strategic trade manoeuvre that can have significant economic impact.
- Banning these Chinese websites and applications to the Indian public effectively allows our home-grown IT talent to focus on the newly arrived Internet user.
- After the removal of more than 118 Chinese apps, Indian techies have started trying to fill the holes with copycat replacement websites and applications. But faithful copies are not enough for us to make full use of China’s exit.
Need for hyper-local, hyper-regional
- The fundamental focus of the new digital products that plan to emerge in the growing market should be to provide for hyper-regional necessities and preferences. With this in mind, there are several commercial opportunities available.
- For example, apps and services that provide specific market prices, local train and bus routes, allow for non-traditional banking and lending, education, health, online sales, classified advertising and so on.
- With the rise in migrant work and labour all over the country, a news or banking app with, say, an Odiya interface should work everywhere that Odiya-speaking people migrate to.
- Accessibility is also crucial.
- However, national accessibility on its own will not make an app a game changer. Indians are savvy enough to know what a world class app is.
- We can export our “India stack” to other countries in the “south”, such as those in Africa and Latin America. We have successfully done this before with our outstanding railway technology. There is no reason we cannot pull off the same achievement with our home-grown Internet power.
Connecting the dots:
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