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Developing Secure Systems for e-Governance

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Rajiv GaubaRajiv Gauba
Additional Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communications & IT, Government of India

Rajiv Gauba is a 1982-batch IAS officer of Jharkhand Cadre. He has more than 25 years of experience in Central and the State Governments, at the District level and in multilateral financial institutions. He has worked in the Ministry of Environment & Forests as Director in-Charge of Policy & Law. He has also worked in the International Monetary Fund for four years.Before becoming the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Communications & IT, Rajiv Gauba served as the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Environment & Forests. There he was looking after the work of Hazardous Substances Management Division and the National River Conservation Directorate.

With the progress of e-Governance in the country lot of government data is being put online. In your opinion what kind of security related issues are there in placing data on to the public domain?

The security issues are actually very real. We have to be fully alive to the challenges that lie in the cyber domain. You see, the electronic files, or the electronic data, can be erased or wiped out far more easily as compared to paper records. While the electronic data does facilitate a better system of service delivery, analysis and storage, it is also vulnerable. Therefore a very comprehensive system of security has to be developed and deployed. A high level of security can only be achieved when people who are managing the system are fully sensitised of the challenges that are there. Keeping that in mind, a national framework for cyber security is now being developed. CERTIn is the organisation that is currently engaged in developing the cyber security framework. Within this framework of security developed by CERT-In, the e-Governance programmes will continue to provide various services to the citizens. In rollout of these programmes, NeGP has to ensure that the best security related practices are followed. Now that e-Governance is being extended to a large number of departments and states, there is even more need for building capacity and sensitising people in the area of cyber security.

How good are the security systems that we are following as of now?

It is not as if security systems that are being followed currently are not good enough. We are taking all the precautions. In times to come, we need to make our security systems far more comprehensive and organised. In fact, NeGP is also developing its own cyber security frameworkthat will be finalised and implemented in the current year. This framework for security will function under the overall framework developed by CERT-In.

There have been instances where sensitive public data has been downloaded by different entities for their own benefit. What steps can be taken to safeguard the public data?

It is for the different departments to decide what kind of security the data, that they own, must require. The departments usually take into account the kind of service that they are providing, for deciding the level of security that they wish to have. They can decide if the data should have limited access, or it should be seen only by the concerned citizen, or it can be made fully public. Each department has to conduct its own research to find out the extent of security that can or should be provided to the data that they are using for providing electronic services. In most cases there are well defined laws to regulate the management of data. Once there is clarity on the level of confidentiality that is required, the technological resources can be brought in to create the necessary safeguards. The e-Praman framework has already been developed by the Ministry. This framework provides necessary system for the security of the various departments, as well as the user. Once e-Praman is fully implemented in the country, it will, to a large extent, be able to manage the security and privacy related concerns.

e-Governance is paving way to m-Governance as more and more people are using their mobile devices to access services from the government. How do you see this development?

In my opinion, m-Governance is a very-very promising area. It has far greater potential, because the number of mobile devices is much larger in the country. The Internet access, and the access to desktops and laptops, is much limited as compared to mobile phones. The mobile phones are far more ubiquitous. We are shifting towards m-Governance with the hope that such a shift will lead to a phenomenal rise in the reach and scope of the e-Governance services. Many more people will be able to access the services and thus the agenda of NeGP to provide easy services to vast majority of the people will get fulfilled. The mobile service gateway has already been launched. A large numbers of government departments in Centre and States have already integrated their e-Governance systems with the mobile service gateway. An app store for m-Governance has already been launched. It has lot of useful apps that can be downloaded. Now we need to bring all departments that are providing electronic services on to the m-Governance platform.

How do you plan the achieve the objective of bringing the departments on the m-Governance platform?

This is something that is going to be achieved through the national rollout of MSDG (Mobile Service Delivery Gateway). For this lot of new infrastructure will have to be created. We are already working on that with C-DAC. We are also talking to various government departments and asking them to make their electronic services compliant to mobile platforms. In the first stage, the informational services will become mobile complaint, and in the second stage the transactional services will become mobile complaint.

How do you see m-Governance developing in the times to come? What is your personal vision for m-Governance?

My vision is the same as the vision of the NeGP. I am here to implement the vision of the National e-Governance Plan. We are working for a system of governance where people can access a vast majority of government services at their doorstep by using their mobile devices or laptops. They don’t have to go to government offices and stand in queue for hours. They can get things done from their home or office. The most important challenge is that the services should be really available in the electronic mode. For this, a comprehensive backend digitisation and application development of all departments is a must. So it is not just the front end, which presents a picture of computerisation and efficiency that is important. The backend is equally important. If the front end is electronic, while the processes at the backend remain manual, then an e-Governance or m-Governance will not be reality.

One of the most successful Mission Mode Projects is the Passport Seva Kendras. What are the reasons due to which this particular e-Governance project has been able to notch such high degree of success?

You see, when you have 31 Mission Mode Projects, all will not be uniformly successful. There are a number of factors on which the relative success of any project will depend. One factor could be linked to the priority that was attached by the department to the Mission Mode Project. The presence of a dedicated Mission Mode Team would certainly be of help. Whether they really went into the nitty-gritty’s of the processes involved! Whether they used this opportunity to relook and re-engineer their various processes. So there are number of factors that can lead to a faster or slower pace of implementation. But those Mission Mode Projects, that have not been able to deliver adequately till now, are also moving forward and in times to come they will also be as successful in bringing out services that the citizens can access in an easy and seamless manner.

It is also possible that some of the Mission Mode Projects could be unable to deliver on their promises because of capacity related issues. What are you doing for capacity building?

The issue of capacity requirement has been well-recognised. The need to have adequate numbers of trained personnel is a must if e-Governance initiatives are to be implemented successfully. The success of the Mission Mode Projects also depends on availability of a trained and motivated mission team. All these issues have been fully deliberated upon. The Nandan Nilekani committee was set by the Hon’ble Prime Minister last year. The committee has now come up with its recommendations, which we will share with all the Ministries and State Governments. Now we are trying to get an umbrella approval from the government at the Cabinet level so that it becomes easier to implement the recommendations. We will be able to create senior positions within the departments of “Chief Technology Officer” and through these; we will be able to implement ICT initiatives in a far more effective manner.

Earlier when you were at the Ministry of Environment, you have done lot of work on effective management of e-Waste. Please tell us about the ways by which ICT can be used for managing e-Waste.

ICT initiatives and e-Governance initiatives are being implemented by all government departments. Such initiatives are taking place even outside the NeGP. Earlier the NeGP had 27 mission mode projects, now there are 31 MMPs. But these 31 MMPs do not comprise all the ICT initiatives that are being taken up by the government departments in the coun-try. For instance, in the Ministry of Environment, we undertook the digitisation of the data pertaining to the environment clearances. All files, all records, were digitised. All information pertaining to the processing of environment clearances was put on the website. We made it possible for people to file for environmental clearances through the online route.

There was no need to file it in the paper mode, or for that matter to come to the office of the Ministry of Environment. The entire process through which the application was considered by the Ministry was available on the website. This, in my opinion, was a major initiative for improving the transparency in the process of environmental clearances.

The Ministry of Environment has also developed a system for web based tracking of e-Waste. Can you tell us about it?

We developed a system for tracking of hazardous waste from the point where it has been generated to the point where it is finally processed or disposed of. As per law, hazardous waste has to be processed in an authorised facility or it has to be sent to a secure landfill. It can’t be sent to a municipal landfill where it can get mixed with the normal waste and cause environmental problems. This is the requirement of law. In order to ensure that this happens, you have to be able to track the movement of the hazardous waste. We developed a system with the help of NIC; it is a web based GIS system that is being used today.

What kind of impact is this initiative having on the ground level?

Well, it is a new initiative and implementation is an ongoing process. The system is still evolving. In some states, where the State Pollution Boards are active, the implementation of the hazardous Waste tracking is fairly good. In some states, there are capacity related constraints. It is one thing to build a system, but its actual implementation depends on a number of factors. There are capacity related issues, and there are also issues related to compliance, prosecution, etc. A regular system of monitoring is required.

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