The term ‘big tech’ offers a helpful and widely used label for describing the world’s most powerful technology companies. The challenges posed by big tech across the domains of competition, innovation, human rights, and social and political impact are real and immediate. So is the need for building more effective checks against them. India is still in the early stages of formulating its strategy on big tech, through the traditional playbook of competition, enforcement, and domain-specific regulatory interventions. But it has also adopted a more novel strategy of relying on open APIs and interoperability standards to counter the market features that enable the concentration of power in the hands of dominant tech players.
The paper studies the Unified Payments Interface, the Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture, and the Open Network for Digital Commerce as examples of such technical systems. It argues that while recognising the innovation and progress of these new systems, it is also important to keep an eye on their potential to emerge as ‘alt big tech’ – systems that create new opportunities for dominance and power play that can bear significant consequences for competition, innovation, and public interest in the long run.