TRAI chief calls for zero cost for digital transactions

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While calling for eliminating costs associated with digital payments for a sustained growth of such transactions, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma on Wednesday emphasised on the need for a speedy solution to issues of data ownership and privacy in the country.

Stating that India had the most robust digital payment infrastructure, Mr. Sharma said “if we want to have a sustainable digital transactions system, we must ensure that MDR or merchant discount rate is zero, especially for small value transactions because that is where the tipping point will come.”

“We are a frugal country in the sense that we don’t want to pay anything for digital services, especially when there is an alternative not to pay,” he said.

To a question, Mr. Sharma said we are moving to a data world and data has become extremely important. Data, he explained, has two important properties – it is sharable without diminishing and is boundary-less in nature.

This raises a very serious issue of who owns the data or data ownership, he said. “That is important…If you look at agreements of all these technology firms; they have policy called data privacy policy. One would think this policy is given to me (user) to say that how will I (the company) protect the privacy of your data. It is not that. It is a policy that says how a company can use/misuse or share users’ data,” Mr. Sharma said.

“Then there is data privacy. Once the data goes out, what can be done with that data… People are concerned about Aadhaar. People should be concerned about other things, for example, mobile is 100 times more dangerous than Aadhaar. Aadhaar does not emit your data, it’s just a number,” he said.

Mr. Sharma pointed out that with services like GPS, a lot of “metadata” about users is given out and stored in clouds, not with the government but private firms.

“This metadata and data being emitted is humungous. Therefore, issues of data ownership, its privacy and security are extremely important… and sooner this is issue is tackled, the better it is,” he said.

He, however, added that many other countries do not have the digital infrastructure which India has. “Because of digital identity I can issue digital tokens or consent tokens whereby I can say this consent authorises you to look at my data for banking transactions and the time till when the consent will apply.”