Impacting Tech Policy Change

On the culture for advancing FOSS centred policies in governance
Apar Gupta

Apar Gupta

Many people are keenly aware of Lessig's path-breaking book, "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace", where he spins the often quoted phrase, "Code is law". In the same book he goes on to illustrate his point by saying the framework of a modern society will be built off, well, code, but also -- social norms and legal systems. Both these areas are often overlooked by the engineers and product designers as much as they later realise how deeply they impact the effectiveness of their technology driven interventions. The aim of this talk is to sensitise and provide a brief primer on the effectiveness of using these additional components in any future strategy to advance the greater adoption of FOSS in India.

The first part of this talk will be centered around online campaigns and our learnings around them. We come to this conversation with a certain sense of pragmatism given the present media ecology fragments attention and creates challenges to build and sustain online collectives over a medium to long term that can impact change.

Moving from the power of online campaigns to actually impacting change we will talk about three policy strategies IFF has adopted and how it engages with governance institutions given the present challenges.
  1. Cultural shifts lead to policy shifts: On the regulatory side we talk about the Data Protection Bill and how we have been able to make surveillance reform a central issue that is being increasingly demanded by people.
  2. Legal change is constant work: Here we talk about our work on Section 66A and how to get laws implemented. We also talk about our engagement with courts and our model towards strategic litigation.
  3. Parliamentary engagement: We have assisted lawmakers across party lines in introduction of three private members bills and also released a manifesto that inputted into the campaign documents of major national political parties. Here we share core insights on supporting legislators with expert advice and inputs that they often lack to better serve public interest.
  4. Iterations of these themes will occur around the issues which are being faced by the FOSS community of users and developers and we encourage all attendees to send in thoughts and suggestions on their specific policy and governance bottlenecks or even best practices in advance by email to

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