As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, public policy has become a critical tool for ensuring that its impact remains positive.
With virtual collaboration on the rise and global connectivity at an all-time high, policymakers must work to create regulatory frameworks that are fit for the purpose.
In India, the government has taken a proactive approach by laying out plans to regulate platforms and ensure safety, trust, openness, and accountability.
As organisations navigate a complex threat landscape and stricter regulatory requirements, understanding the intersection of technology and public policy is more important than ever. In this ever-evolving world, Iravati Damle, Head of Government Relations for Zoom Video Communications in India, is at the forefront of navigating complex policy challenges.
With extensive experience in the tech policy space, Damle is recognised as a public policy leader and has played a major role in deepening Zoom's relations with the government.
People Matters recently spoke to Damle about the intersection of technology and public policy, and the opportunities for individuals interested in this field.
What inspired you to pursue a career in technology policy and what does your role as Head of Government Relations at Zoom Video Communications in India entail?
My journey in public policy began as a legislative assistant to a Member of the Parliament. During this time, I saw first-hand the immense impact that policy change could have on people's lives and I made it my calling. Following my work with the MP from the opposition party, I transitioned to working in the government with the hope to create a greater impact for a larger number of people. This experience underscored the importance of understanding policy from multiple perspectives and finding common ground to advance important causes.
My interest in technology policy specifically was born out of a desire to tackle the complex problems that the sector presented to policy makers. Technology and businesses have the power to transform society in profound ways, and it is vital that businesses work collaboratively with the government to ensure that the benefit of these changes have a far and wide reach. As a public policy leader, you have the incredible opportunity to work with the government and the industry to be a force for change, a force for public good and I feel thrilled and grateful everyday for this opportunity.
What skills and experiences do you believe are most important for someone pursuing a career in public policy, and how can they develop those skills?
In my experience, the top most critical skills for success in public policy include critical thinking, problem solving, communication, a commitment to dive deep in any subject matter, and having the ability to unlearn and relearn.
In today's rapidly changing world, those working in the policy space must be able to analyse complex issues, anticipate potential consequences, and develop creative solutions that balance competing interests.
While subject matter expertise is undoubtedly valuable, I believe that it is a skill that can be developed through experience and research. By honing these skills, those aspiring to be in the public policy space can be a meaningful participant and create lasting impact.
How do you see the intersection of technology and public policy evolving in the coming years? What opportunities do you see for individuals interested in this field?
In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the ongoing intersection of technology and public policy and seeing its evolution in the coming years is an exciting place to be. Emerging technological advancements create a need for understanding new policy areas. The recent regulations laid down by the government further underscore the need for collaboration between the tech industry and policy makers.
In India, we are seeing fast-paced digitisation, which will continue to create immense opportunities for individuals interested in the field of technology and public policy. As the country's digital infrastructure continues to grow and evolve, there will be a need for policy experts who can navigate the complexities of this emerging landscape while addressing safety, privacy, and security of all users.
At Zoom, we understand and value the importance of working collaboratively with the government to ensure that our platform is secure, transparent, and compliant with local laws and regulations.
How do you balance the need for innovation and technological progress with the potential negative impacts of technology on society and the environment?
That’s a question that a lot of technology companies think about, and it’s certainly at the core of what technology regulation aims to achieve.
On the one hand, technological progress has brought prosperity, productivity, and improved quality of life to countless people and organisations, including governments. Governments don’t want to lose out on those benefits for their citizens. On the other hand, there are risks that arise from an interconnected world that companies and governments want to mitigate.
Technology providers are taking ownership in mitigating these risks, and are forthcoming about the measures that they take. At Zoom, for example, the principle of privacy by design is a core element of all new product features and launches. In fiscal year 2023, Zoom Bug Bounty Program awarded $3.9 million in bounties to hundreds of researchers and over $7 million to date since the program began. From our recently announced Okta Authentication for E2EE, to the three new additions to our list of industry-recognised certifications and attestations, these security offerings mitigate some of the risks of technology. We constantly share such developments with all our government stakeholders.
It is important for regulators and technology companies to have an open channel of communication. This allows companies to respond to government feedback and concerns. At the same time, companies can act as an important source of information regarding trends in technology, and therefore what governments need to think about in terms of policy frameworks looking forward.
How do you see the relationship between tech companies and the government evolving in the coming years?
We have observed an increased focus on consultations between the industry and the government to discuss the innovations that the industry is working towards. This collaborative approach allows us to address critical issues and make the internet a safer place for every individual.
The role of public policy professionals in bridging the gap between the industry and the government is crucial in this evolving relationship. With the interface of public policy professionals, the industry is more attuned to understanding the government's imperatives and challenges and working together to be a part of the solution.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in technology policy or public policy more broadly?
I can share some of my learnings working in tech public policy.
Do the groundwork: Invest time, effort and resources to get a rounded understanding of the technology at play and the policy issues that emerge as a result of it. Learning to build an intuition for regulatory considerations when you think of or read about any innovation is an important skill in the sector.
When working in tech/corporate public policy, you have to be alive to business and policy considerations and build the skills to partner internally within your organization and externally. Only when you learn to understand the imperatives of both can you be an effective public policy leader.
Finally, I would encourage anyone interested in a career in technology policy or public policy to be passionate and committed to making a positive impact on society. Whether it's through developing more equitable and inclusive policies or promoting innovation and growth, the work we do has the potential to shape the future.