Law in the Internet Society
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Have we learned our lesson? - From Open Source to Open Data and Data Trusts

-- By BalajiVenkatakrishnan - 07 Oct 2019

Let's put this in perspective. For years Microsoft opposed the open source software movement, and even branded it as a "cancer". Eventually, Microsoft pivoted. It adapted its business model to be compatible with open source software, and even went on to acquire Github (an open source software platform) for 7.5 billion dollars. At the outset, perhaps this example helps signify two important aspects - (1) the initial, but long drawn struggle against open source software resulted in a centralized software industry with few dominant enterprises, which (could have) stagnated innovation; and (2) open source software is presently the norm, and not counterculture. Basis this, there is speculation about what could have been, if the benefits of open source software were embraced without the struggle. However, the world's next technological dilemma is already afoot, and at its epicenter is data. Consequently, any speculation vis-a-vis the open source software struggle should have in mind the ongoing data conundrum, as this will ensure that mistakes of the past are minimized. Accordingly, in this brief essay, I aim to examine whether the ongoing data conundrum has learned from its predecessor, given that some solutions to combat it share similarities with the open source software movement.

_The Data Struggle & its similarities with the Open Source Software Movement_

The advent of digitalization and data analytics has transcended the traditional understanding of markets and their regulation. Data-driven business models have become crucial to gain competitive advantages, such that 79.4% of the participants in a survey feared displacement by competitors with ‘data cultures’. Large data sets coupled with data analytics helps companies achieve economic efficiencies, and consequently, companies strive to acquire data to gain market power. This results in competition foreclosure, and anti-consumer effects.

This not only forecloses competition, but also leads to anti-consumer effects.

Thus, regulators struggle balancing pro-competitive effects and anti-competitive conduct when data intersects with competition, as regulators are traditionally price-centric in evaluating markets while data is difficult to value.

Such concerns have prompted regulators to contemplate data’s impact on competition. However, India remains inexperienced in these concepts at an independent and interdependent level. In this essay, I aim to identify global experiences in the competition and data intersection that India must learn from and implement to ensure progress.


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r3 - 08 Oct 2019 - 17:01:27 - BalajiVenkatakrishnan
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