One can buy technology simply by paying money, but for its adoption by the masses, promotion of a technology culture remains a pre-requisite, observes Ranjan Dwivedi, Director General Police, Home Guards, Uttar Pradesh, during an interaction with Elets News Network (ENN)
How do you find SecureIT as a platform where you can share and hear the thought process of the key stakeholders of the industry?
First of all, I would like to suggest that events like these should be conducted on university campuses, so that students – young minds can benefit from deliberations and also express their views. In locales like expensive hotels, 80 per cent benefit of this kind of conferences is networking. Also, If we can find a platform which is in-between a conference and a workshop, then we will be able to deliver and achieve much more. The workshop mode involves teams, which have five to 10 people working together. It will lead to the result of workshop being actionable concrete plans.
What are the present-day challenges of IT security?
It is a huge open question and there are two aspects, IT in security and security issues in use of IT. Addressing the first, we must understand, to begin with, that IT is basically an enabler. It can only leverage technology to do what you are doing otherwise. By itself, IT will not solve your problem. It allows you to work in a more efficient, cost-effective and efficacious manner to probably achieve more in given time. However, the basic governance has to be put in place first, or else the desired results may not be achieved, no matter how much investment is sunk in IT. Apart from that, the trouble is that in India, we have not given sufficient care to sectoral reforms, especially in sectors like security and governance in general. The basic systems and structure are still “19th century civil service”. These systems were designed for stability to serve the interest of colonial imperialism, not large scale social and economic change.
In most day to day functioning of public systems, IT is not used in mission critical work- it is still full paper based back-up, which is why security issues are not high on agenda. People avoid marginal investment in security. Increasingly smart phones are being used to access the net (globally, 4 for every personal computer), and smart phone security is even less addressed. Most computing and all security software and guidance is in English fluently used by 10 per cent of the people, and almost none in Indian Languages accounting for 90 per cent. Use of pirated software, and not updating to avoid detection also creates vulnerabilities. (The free and open source movement has been week in India). All free e- mailing systems are subjected to analytics, and the humanity today lives in a virtual glasshouse. I got a scare early morning by an unsolicited alert form Google that my flight was leaving in two hours! Can there be a more challenging time for IT security?
What are your views about the Government of India’s ‘Digital India’ programme? How do you think it can be implemented more effectively?
We can have a ‘Digital India’ only if we first sort out the issues relating to the ground level governance, interdepartmental cooperation and coordination, meta data standards, interoperability issues addressed and data base sharing. And, we are quite away from all this. Thus, India will be able to avail the advantages of digital technologies, which make interaction and decision making efficient and cost effective, services ubiquitous and people centric when we have seamless database sharing and interoperability at the level of systems. This calls for a digital mindset, work cultural openness and mutuality in functioning. Unfortunately, in the real world, the government officers hardly talk to each other, and departments and ministries do not readily interact with each other. However, Digital technology can force a data structure and sharing, and force a change in behaviour. It is a strategic issue that must be leveraged when designing new systems.
The current federal Government, as much as I am aware, working in a state, is taking recourse to the civil service to implement a change agenda. But, the structure of civil service is such that it works in cultural isolation, and even cultural inbreeding without exposure to modern systems. Policy making maybe at the Center, but implementation is in the states. Despite having best public interests in intent, lack of exposure for a vast majority of All India Service officers, who prefer to remain in the states, severely handicaps them in adopting modern work methods. Also, we must remember that we are still carrying on with a service structure, which was designed to serve colonialism.
Recruitment for most services has little relevance to the skills and aptitude needed for the job the incumbent is required to do with promotion in service linked to performance in an exam passed which had little relevance to the job. Unless we are ready to see civil service reforms in a big way (and there is big backlog) with scope for specialisation, interaction with academia and research for evidence based functioning, opportunities to work periodically in non-governmental systems, achieving the grand vision of Digital India with a different way of working will remain a huge challenge. The ‘Digital India’ initiative offers immense potential, but needs a huge cultural shift for the initiative to deliver value. Successive large centrally sponsored projects with investments in ICT and policing not delivering value is a good illustration.