“Yes, cyber terrorism is a serious issue even for India” – By, Mr. Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director, The Dialogue

1. What is the Dialogue?

The Dialogue is an emerging public-policy think-tank with a vision to drive a progressive narrative in India’s policy discourse. Founded in 2017, we believe in facilitating well-researched policy debates at various levels to help develop a more informed citizenry, on areas around technology, strategic affairs, sustainability and development issues.

Our aim is to enable a more coherent policy discourse in India backed by evidence and layered with the passion to transform India’s growth, to help inform on public-policies, analyse the impact of governance and subsequently, develop robust solutions to tackle our challenges and capitalise on our opportunities. To achieve our objectives, we deploy a multi-stakeholder approach and work Government, academia, civil-society, industry and other important stakeholders.

2. What is the role of policy think tank in today’s growing digital India?

Extremely important. I think looking back at the history of mankind, with the advent of fourth industrial revolution and AI, humanity is at an inflection point where the choices we make in the next few decades can have transformative impact on the future of our civilisation. In a scenario like this, the most important metrics is to get the policy planning right. And the role of think-tanks working in the tech space therefore is immensely important, as they will play a central role in driving forward to policy roadmap.

3. Where do you think India stands as a digital power globally?

India today stands at the cusp of one of the most exciting times. Digital technologies took the country into the 21st century with the rise of IT and ITes enabled services, that lead to billions of investment and thus created millions of jobs and positioned India on the global map of technology. We have one of the best talents in the field of IT, are the second largest user of the internet after China and have, a rising middle class with growing aspirations that is plugged onto the potential of using digital technologies to enhance ease of living. The next piece of the puzzle is to enable progressive policies in place to maximise our country’s potential.

4. As we are emerging in digital space, what do you think is the right path for cyber security?

We need to ensure network security by protecting networks against both internal and external attacks, malware protection by developing relevant policies and by establishing anti-malware defenses. We should continuously monitor information and communication technology systems and networks for vulnerabilities and establish an incident management and recovery team. There is also a need to develop Human Resources by giving special training to tackle cybersecurity incidents, by creating awareness amongst the users of information technology about the need and modes of cybersecurity.

5. We know cyber terrorism is a serious issue in the West. What do you think is the stage here and how can we handle it with more care?

Yes, cyber terrorism is a serious issue even for India and we need a proper cyberspace law to deal with it. We also need to build capacity within the government to improve our abilities on responding to such high level challenges that threaten our national security.

6. What are the digital policies made by Indian government in recent times that we as a citizen must know?

The last one year has seen a slew of policies, bills and amendments that have the common thread of protectionism and stringent control running across. Since April 2018, when RBI notified data localisation mandate for digital payments, to February 2019, when the Draft E-commerce policy was announced, the technology ecosystem has witnessed a series of intended policies that want seek greater government control on ownership of data, higher compliance cost for businesses to operate, traceability of origin of content that weakens privacy, proactive monitoring of content that threatens both privacy and national security and limiting free flow of data that will affect India’s economic growth. Government has developed a Data Protection Bill, brought in amendments to Intermediary
Liability Rules, 2011, notified ten agencies to access any data stored in any computer in India and is also discussing on how to regulate OTTs and digital communications services. We expect the policy ecosystem will be very busy post the formation of the new government.

7. Please talk about some recent work your company has done in digital and cyberspace.

Over the last year and a half, we have delivered more than fifty projects on technology policy, comprising of research, government engagement, advocacy, public discourses and conferences. Our work focuses on informing stakeholders on tech policy issues and towards this we have deployed research driven discourses around contemporary issues such as cross-border data flows, cyber security, privacy and data protection, emerging technologies such as AI, surveillance, digital economy and social media.

8. Many global giants like Facebook are almost in trouble in India for barging privacy. What is the government doing on it?

The Government introduced the Data Protection Bill last year that seeks to provide a framework for protecting our personal data. The Bill is with the concerned ministry and we hope that this year we will have a data protection law that is progressive and is based on the principles laid down by the Supreme Court.

9. Finally, can we call our country a digitally safe country?

I think this is a work in progress. Securing cyberspace is fundamental to protect democratic institutions, the economy, free-speech and flow of ideas, as well as privacy, safety and security of people. The WEF Global Risk Report recognises cyber security as a major issue for the 21st century and it is imperative that countries work together, with each other, to make the cyberspace more secure. India is working towards it and I am sure the new government will treat this issue on a high priority.

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