IGF 2023 Lightning Talk #58 Digital Rights and Wrongs: Voices from Indian Civil Society

Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (02:40 UTC) - Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (03:10 UTC)
SC – Room H

Human Rights & Freedoms
Non-discrimination in the Digital Space
Rights to Access and Information

Human Rights & Freedoms

Digital Empowerment Foundation
Jenny Sulfath, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia Saurabh Srivastava, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia Ananthu RA, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia Arpita Kanjilal, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia


Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Civil Society, South Asia Nikita Sonavane, Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project, Civil Society, South Asia Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Suchna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan, Civil Society, South Asia Shaik Salauddin, Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union, Civil Society, South Asia

Onsite Moderator

Jenny Sulfath

Online Moderator

Arpita Kanjilal


Ananthu RA


8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
10. Reduced Inequalities

Targets: India’s rapidly transforming digital ecosystem is in stark contradiction to its socio-economic and cultural norms, which are still dictated by sharp divisions along the lines of gender, caste, religion, class and ethnicity. The proposal seeks to discuss how these divisions are reflected in the use of technology, from the basic to the advanced and how it is important to reduce this impact. It directly relates to The UN-SDG of reducing inequalities, particularly the targets 10.2 and 10.3. Further, the proposal also addresses the issues of decent work (SDG 8) as two of the speakers represent two important worker collectives, one representing the platform and gig workers and the other workers associated with the rural employment guarantee scheme in India. The session seeks to address the issue of non-payment of wages for MNREGA workers and precarious working condition of platform workers both contribute to SDG 8.


The format of the proposed session is a moderated discussion. Each speaker will receive 5 minutes to talk about how particular aspects of digitisation are impacting the communities they work with. Given below is the flow of the discussion Moderator's introduction: 2 minutes Moderated discussion: 20 minutes Question and Answer session: 8 minutes

Duration (minutes)

India's rapidly evolving digital ecosystem has undergone significant transformations, particularly with the implementation of the Digital India scheme in 2015. The scheme's core vision areas include enhancing digital infrastructure, promoting digital literacy, and enabling digital entitlement delivery. However, the persisting interplay of caste, class, gender, religion, and race continues to shape the uneven impact of digitisation. For instance, workers affiliated with The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme have staged a sit-in protest in Delhi, shedding light on the issue of being marked absent on numerous days due to weak network connectivity in their villages, resulting in lost wages. The very system that aimed to ensure employment accountability has inadvertently led to the exclusion of marginalised populations. Likewise, gig and platform workers have long struggled to be recognised as formal workers within the platform economy due to the absence of a regulatory framework. While digitisation promises increased job opportunities, these workers often find themselves at the mercy of corporate dictates, losing their traditional customer base and being compelled to accept exploitative terms. The introduction of new technological interventions, such as Artificial Intelligence-powered systems, in policing also raises concerns about reinforcing existing power inequalities, potentially leading to the criminalisation of historically disadvantaged communities in India, particularly those belonging to the Nomadic & Denotified Tribes communities. Conversely, digitisation has empowered individuals in rural India to question entrenched power imbalances. By bringing together representatives from grassroots movements and civil society organisations working on diverse issues, this moderated discussion explores their experiences and apprehensions regarding growing automation. The session cut across the themes of the digital divide and takes the discussion forward from the last IGF, particularly the theme of "Addressing Advanced Technologies, including AI". It would explore how digital rights issues are human rights issues in the global south and what the implications are in everyday life of people from the grassroots.

1) How will you facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees? Live video streaming. The live video streaming will ensure that the online participant can see the offline audience too. 2) How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants? We will also arrange a mobile phone through which one of the organising team will be connected. When there is Q&A, the person with the mobile phone will move around and also record it and live stream it simultaneously. We will also distribute a handout (both online and offline) about the issues that are being discussed to clearly communicate the content of the discussion. 3) Please note any complementary online tools/platforms you plan to use to increase participation and interaction during the session. We will be using the Q&A of the chat, and the online moderator will be managing this chat.