Interview

Cybersecurity by Design should be the Mantra: Dr Rajendra Kumar

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Dr Rajendra Kumar, IAS

With the wave of digital transformation in India, the question of cybersecurity and safety of data and digital platforms become the primary concern. Answering such questions and detailing on India’s digital transformation, Dr Rajendra Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) interacted in an exclusive interview with Nisha Samant Purbey and Adarsh Som of Elets News Network (ENN).

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How MeitY is ensuring safer and secure digital platforms, especially considering the shift of various services to online platforms?

Security of platforms is of prime importance and it should be considered even while conceptualizing any development. Security is not confined to a single level but needs to be addressed at business (defining security policies), infrastructure (appropriate configurations at the network, data centre, and hardware), application (application deployment, OS hardening) and data (storage, access) levels. It is more cost-effective to plan for and implement security-specific functions in the planned architecture as early as possible in the platform development cycle to avoid costly retrofit or rework because the required building blocks for security were not added or used during systems development and deployment.

Safety and security of digital platform should be taken into account when the platform is being developed and after its development. Security by design should be the mantra for a safer and secure digital platform.

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The Ministry has come up with the electronic consent management framework. MeitY organizations such as CERT-In & STQC empanel third-party security auditors for all Government applications, which are required to obtain a security audit certificate before deploying the application online. MeitY has empanelled cloud service providers and also issued security guidelines for cloud service providers, which may host Government applications. The Digital Service Standards published by the ministry extensively cover all the interventions required to ensure platform security.

As online education is the norm today, how monitoring of quality education and misconducts can be controlled? Is the MeitY planning to have a common digital platform with apt security measures for all schools for equitable, quality and secured education?

To monitor online education, the digital platform should allow the teacher to admit only genuine students who have been given credentials to log into the online class. To control misconduct during the classes, the digital platform to be used for teaching must provide controls for a teacher to take note of misconduct being done by any student. The teacher may warn the student during the class, else the student may be removed from the class if he/she does not mend his/her behaviour.

Also Read: Transforming the Government Digitally: Challenges and Opportunities – Rajendra Kumar

As a part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, MeitY has invited proposals for e-Learning platform challenge. Further, MeitY, through an open grand challenge, invited proposals for video conferencing platform developed in the country. The winners of the e-Learning App and Video Conferencing platform challenges have already been declared. These platforms may be developed and enhanced further to make them secure and scalable to meet the needs of online classes.

How portals like Government e-Marketplace (GeM) are contributing to making India self-reliant?

GeM is the national procurement portal for making procurement of goods and services by the central and state government departments and Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). GeM provides inherent features of efficiency, transparency and ease of doing business with government buyers which attract the sellers to do business with the government and promote manufacturing in India due to faster acceptance of supplies and payments to sellers. More and more sellers are now inclined to do business with the government because they can transact with these buyers in a contactless and cashless manner in a secured environment.

The process of registration on GeM is very short & simple and does not require any elaborate documentation which has facilitated onboarding of large numbers of Self Help Groups (SHGs), artisans, weavers and other sellers to register and sell their products to government buyers. GeM also helps to implement the procurement policies formulated by various ministries at a fast pace which makes the implementation easy. The policies for the benefit and preference to MSMEs and the policy of Make in India are fully implemented on GeM, which supports and promote manufacturing in India. GeM also provides a platform for the startups to showcase their innovative products and sell them to these buyers. All these features and functionalities help in promoting manufacturing in India and making India less dependent on imports and more self-reliant for its needs.

It seems that CSCs will be playing an instrumental role in bridging the gap between the online government services and citizens in rural and remote regions. What steps are being taken to further augment the service delivery?

Common Services Centres (CSCs) are playing a significant role in the dissemination of G2C and other citizen-centric services to citizens, especially in rural India. It is a self-sustainable, service delivery & transactions oriented model which has been run by the Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs). CSC–SPV has developed an integrated Digital Seva (DS) platform for the delivery of e-services, which has been integrated with various G2C, G2B and B2C services along with e-District services of 12 States/UTs and collectively offers a bouquet of 400+ e-services. Further, CSC–SPV is extending the Wi-Fi facilities in Gram Panchayats/villages where the BharatNet Phase-I project has been completed under the supervision of DoT and BBNL to facilitate the citizens and government departments.

Also Read: Digital India Transcends NeGP : Dr Rajendra Kumar

Further, these CSCs are also facilitating the Aadhaar generation & correction, E-KYC & Authentication and Aadhaar printing work with UIDAI, providing digital literacy, telecentre entrepreneurship programme, e-court services and other educational services including skill development. Also, the CSCs are delivering the services for PDS, labour registration, e-stamp, e-Vahan & Sarthi including other State Government services. CSCs are providing major central government services such as electoral application services, passport applications, PAN application, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, FSSAI registration/license, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PM-FBY), Jeevan Pramaan, Ayushman Bharat, PM Shram Yogi Mandhan Yojana (PM-SYM), PM Kisan Maandhan Yojana (PMKMY), PM Merchant Pension scheme for traders, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, PM Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Yojana, PM Street Vendor Atmanirbhar Nidhi, Udhyam Jyoti Parichay, 7th National Economic Census, etc. As on July 31, 2020, there are total 3,63,869 functional CSCs (including urban & rural). Out of them, 2,65,887 CSCs are functional at the Gram Panchayat (GP) level.

What is the way forward for e-governance in India?

MeitY has initiated various schemes/projects to realise the vision of the Digital India Programme. Central ministries & state governments are providing various citizen-centric G2C and other services through different platforms, wherein MeitY has the vision to bring all of them onto a common integrated national digital platform for further dissemination to people. MeitY is working with various other ministries, state governments and the industries to adopt the emerging technologies to improve the quality of services and infrastructure.

With a focused approach, we are moving ahead in a proactive manner for delivery of G2C & other e-services through both web-based and mobile devices for better reach and anytime and anywhere delivery model. MeitY is also continuously focused on the use of ICT enabled services to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). E-governance can play a vital role to achieve broad public participation in decision-making, enhance access to information and to remove barriers to public service delivery.

Future of e-Governance is shifting from digital silos to connected services wherein implementation of the public digital platforms needs to be accelerated with a focus on providing the digital services through a seamless view of OneGovernment or Connected Government. This would include the transformation of services with the integration of Data Analytics, AI and other emerging technologies such as Blockchain, Geo-Spatial Technologies, etc. to make the services personalised, paperless, cashless, frictionless, presence less and consent-based.

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