Cybersecurity underpins the Union Budget of India 2018-19

In his recent Budget speech, the Finance Minister of India stopped short of mentioning cybersecurity as the keystone of every transformational project that the government has chosen to initiate or enhance in the next year. In this piece, we take a closer look at some of the proposed aspects of Digital India and the risk vis-a-vis potential it carries in the wake of the ever-increasing cyber-attacks on a nation’s growth story.

  • Education Reforms

“Technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education. We propose to increase the digital intensity in education and move gradually from ‘‘black board’’ to ‘‘digital board’’ “

While education gets rebooted in this philosophy, not all educational content would be under the control of the government or establishment, because the internet is still a free society. It would be extremely important for institutions to partner with service providers and ensure seamless and secure delivery of content. The web can be a dark & murkier place. Our children need more protection than ever as we seek to replace the ‘black’ with the ‘digital’ board!

  • Tourism aided by Technology

“…Iconic Tourism destinations by a holistic approach involving infrastructure and skill development, development of technology, attracting private investment, branding and marketing. “

As we put more technology into the hands of our tourists, we also need to secure these from all ends; back & front. Something as ubiquitous as social media has been routinely abused to put the lives & safety of our guests. Fake news needs to be weeded out of the system through a combined of digital & living sentinels. Local police needs to be empowered through a fusion of Cybersecurity & Analytics to be effective in enforcing the law of the land.

  • Connecting Bharat

“The Government also proposes to setup five lakh wi-fi hotspots which will provide broadband access to five crore rural citizens. “

In the preceding line to the above snippet, the government claimed that it has already provided broadband access to over 20 crore rural Indians in about two lakh fifty thousand villages. But does it also mean internet literacy for almost one-fifth of the country’s population? Who would be responsible for the security of the e-infrastructure? How do we make sure that hotspots doesn’t become hack-spots & terror-spots? Mass awareness on cybersecurity has to be taken on a war-footing just like National Literacy Mission.

  • The Road to Blockchain

“The Government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy. “

The blockchain story seems to be like the proverbial treasure hunt. Everybody knows that there is a treasure somewhere but no one knows where to find it & mine it. Blockchain runs on cryptography & therefore needs to be secure first even before being useful. For those jumping on the blockchain bandwagon, need to make sure that they have packed in enough security in their bags for this adventurous journey.

  • Finding Cyber

A keyword search on “cyber” leads to just one para in the entire speech.

“Combining cyber and physical systems have great potential to transform not only innovation ecosystem but also our economies and the way we live. To invest in research, training and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication and internet of things, Department of Science & Technology will launch a Mission on Cyber Physical Systems to support establishment of centres of excellence.”

Thankfully, the buzzwords in IT have all found their way in this one paragraph. AI, Big Data, Quantum, IoT have all arrived & are here to stay provided they check-in along with right measure of security. Reports of poorly designed IoTs with little or no protection have not helped the Innovation Eco-system so far. AI & Quantum are just catching up. BIG Data is getting bigger but is it really safer? We only hope that all creators & innovators are extremely prudent before leasing out our lives to technology.

As we kickstart a new year of ascendancy, I would just like all parties concerned to focus on the ‘Security‘ of doing business along with the ‘Ease‘ of doing business to make India truly a economic superpower.

As the world’ largest democracy, we are destined to reach the pinnacle, but then the India Story is not about the destination but the journey which would be taken on the metaphorical digital superhighway.