“We have to take the bad with the good,” he says

Amid recent debates over the censorship of Internet in the country, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Saturday that while there was a need to put certain “restrictions from time to time,” the medium “has gone too far now to be regulated.”

“We have to take the bad with the good,” he said while speaking at the NDTV’s Solution summit in the national capital.

Evolving medium

Echoing similar views, Google India vice-president & managing director Rajan Anandan said Internet was an evolving medium. “It's important for us to keep in mind the amazing things it can do for India. If you think about the core issues, Internet can be an enabler.”

Naina Lal Kidwai, Country Head of HSBC India, said, “There is a danger that we’ll over-regulate to the point where we lose what is good [of the Internet].”

During the discussion on ‘Internet as a way of strengthening democracy,’ political scientist Ashutosh Varshney pointed out that the main issue to be looked at was who should regulate Internet and how. “Internet will have to be regulated. How and by whom is the question. The moment you give certain discretionary powers to the police or the bureaucrats, there is an evitable tendency to exploit.”

Urban-rural gap in usage

Prof. Varshney also voiced concern at the huge urban-rural gap as far as the use of Internet was concerned. “We have over 200 million Internet users, of which only 25 million are from rural India, and electorally, the weight of rural India is 75 per cent or higher — that part of India has not been penetrated by the Internet,” he said.

Mr. Anandan said a lot of voters were using the Internet to form their opinion on politicians and issues, but that access was limited mostly to cities and urban India. He said Internet was poised to play a larger role in the elections.

“Of the four million Indians accessing the Internet every month, 70 per cent are from metros,” he said. By the 2019 polls, however, that could change and Internet could be a major factor in Indian politics as 600 million Indians are expected to be connected by then.