The Republic of India is a useful case study for tracking the growth of cybercrime in the developing world. Most analyses of such crime focus on advanced, industrialized countries because that is where the largest and most sophisticated offences originate from. But threat factors can also spring from contexts where having a technical degree is only a passport to frustration in low-wage, overpopulated and nepotistic job markets. While considerable attention has been given to Nigerian-based online scams, the case of India suggests a different growth trajectory to cybercrime. In Nigeria, such crime ‘evolved upwards’ from poorly educated and impoverished sections of the population towards the working class, who were subsequently enticed to join because of lack of legitimate opportunities for generating household income. In India, cybercrime ‘devolved downwards’ from the relatively well off English-literate working class towards poorer (non-English-speaking) sections of society. The country’s initial wave of cybercrime was motivated by greed, not need.

A social anthropology of cybercrime: The digitization of India's economic periphery

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Prem Mahadevan

Before joining the GI, Prem Mahadevan worked for almost nine years as a Senior Researcher with the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. He specialized in research on organized crime, intelligence and irregular warfare. He has lectured on international relations courses at universities in Austria and the Czech Republic, and been invited to brief parliamentarians and high ranking security officials from across Europe and Asia, besides NATO and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. He has co-authored policy studies for the Swiss foreign ministry and written a book on counterterrorist special operations for the Indian Army. His academic publications include two books on the theme ‘intelligence and terrorism’, besides several peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in edited volumes.

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