Interview

So, What has Changed and What More Will? : Rana Gupta, Business Head – SafeNnet, India

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It is the trust that can make citizens cling to electronic mode of services and that trust can only come through transparency and quality of services; these can make any e-Service successful and put us on the right path of e-Governance

So, what changed over the last 75 months in e-Governance? As much as I can recall every sphere of my life went through a sea-change. The biggest change was in the area of communications – from having to wait endlessly for the luck to smile and be allocated a landline connection to a state where most of us hate having to receive some unsolicited calls for a new cellphone number. This provided a strong boost to an otherwise independent changing landscape in the area of banking whereby I stopped having to spend one Saturday morning every month just deal with my own money and now can access my money through a slew of mechanisms (internet, ATM, credit cards, debit cards) ever having to actually visit the branch and that too on 24×7 basis.

This easy access to money and transfer from one account to another, opened the possibilities for a life without hassles – be it making movie reservations without having to visit cinemas or booking an air/railway ticket without having to physically go to reservation centers, it made the life easier besides making additional hours available for valuable utilisation instead of having to wait in queues. Proliferation of data networks and mobile devices led to paper-less offices and then the virtual offices. I can be anywhere in the world and spending time with my family and yet on top of critical official matters. Summarily, changes in the past have been to the benefit of masses and have worked towards making it easier going through the daily chores of life.

Convenience led to better quality of life and was certainly a driver. However, just like while good marketing campaign can attract prospects to try a product/service it is ultimately the quality of the product/service that leads to a sustainable adoption, while the convenience drove people to try the non-conventional ways of doing banking it required them to place their “trust” in dealing with a “virtual” banker to allow it to deal with their money. Earning the public trust while promising the convenience was to be the ultimate catalyst to “achieving” the intended change. I have come across so many people who wouldn’t have a credit card or have an internet banking account or even an ATM card because of their mistrust in dealing with someone who can’t be seen.

Facilitating this “trust” is key to everything we do in life. Essentially “reliability” and “availability” is critical to gaining this trust and if India were to continue on the path of wide adoption of IT-enabled services then all the projects need to have the underlying elements of transaction and data integrity, transaction and data non-repudiation, transaction and data confidentiality, authentication and authorization to perform transactions and access/modify data, and traceability of whatever is being done within a system. Let me elaborate with some examples.

Consider that you are so used to Internet banking that you don’t think of any other to bank but to do so through Internet Banking. And without realising, you have come under the farming attack that transparently redirects the traffic meant for a banking site to a fake site that passively listens into all the data being sent and then passes on the same to original site and becomes active only when the user undertakes a “money transfer” transaction and changes the receiving end of the transaction. So, while you thought you have logged into the genuine bank site, you have actually logged into a fake site and lost your money. One such incident and you will be scared to doing any further internet banking transaction for long time to come.

In general, as more and more workflow automation happens (whether sales tax return filing, land registration, medical insurance, life insurance, treasury)  for the purpose of making the lives convenient for the citizens of India and facilitating better use of their time besides facilitating better tracking and business intelligence for efficient governance, policy makers and project owners need to increasingly think about the same elements of transaction and data integrity, transaction and data non-repudiation, transaction and data confidentiality, authentication and authorization to perform transactions and access/modify data, and traceability to avoid leakage of sensitive data to those not authorized to have it in the first place and preventing the modification of data and transactions causing anarchy.

 So, as next 75-months lead to a faster adaption of IT in the areas as diverse as Automated Metering, Mobile Commerce, Highway and Traffic Management, Crime & Criminal Records and Intelligence we may as well do well to be ready for the worst possible scenarios. Readiness for the disaster scenarios will not only help prevent those but also build the confidence in customers, businesses and governments that India continues to be a great place to live and work. 

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