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We can walk fine balance between privacy, openness and national security

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NEW DELHI: In the midst of a contentious debate over privacy and the government’s efforts to promote digitisation through Aadhaar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that a fine balance could be struck between openness and national security. “Surely, we can walk the fine balance between privacy and openness on one hand and national security on the other,” Modi said in his address at the Global Conference on Cyberspace on Thursday.

The PM also called for closer cooperation to prevent terrorists and radical ideologies from exploiting cyberspace. “Nations should also take responsibility to ensure digital space does not become a playground for the dark forces of terrorism and radicalisation. Information sharing and coordination among security agencies is essential to counter the ever-changing threat landscape,” he said. While he framed his remarks in a global context, they have a bearing on the legal challenges to the government’s ambitious plans to make digitisation key to a variety of programmes. “Together, we can overcome the differences between a global and open system on the one hand and nation-specific legal environment on the other,” the PM said to an audience that included delegates from industry, civil society and government.

Explaining why digitisation was so central to his vision of governance and financial inclusion, Modi said advances in cyberspace and faster connectivity were making the world a flatter place, allowing less developed nations to emerge on a par with the more developed ones. Modi said on the last Wednesday of every month, he held a meeting of Union and state government officials for a ‘Pragati’ session that took stock of schemes and looked at issues that involved coordination between the Centre and states. “Technology breaks silos. Sitting in our respective offices, (and) aided by the cyber world, we discuss and resolve important governance issues,” he said.

Pragati has resulted in faster decision-making through consensus, the PM said. “Cyberspace technology must remain enablers for the common man and the people. The quest for an open and accessible internet often leads to vulnerability. Stories of hacking and disruption of websites is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Modi said it had to be ensured that vulnerable sections of society did not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals and a key focus area for the government would be to train professionals to tackle cyber attacks. Cyber protection must become a reliable career option for the youth, he added. Fifty incidents of cyber attacks affecting 19 financial organisations were reported from 2016 till June 2017.

Launching the Umang (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance) mobile app, Modi said, “The app will provide over 1,000 citizen-centric services. It will automatically add pressure among peers and result in better performance.” Using the app, citizens will be able to access EPFO services, apply for a new PAN, register themselves under the PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana among others.

Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was present at the event, said there was no legal framework on cyberspace and he hoped the conference led to a consensus on the terms of the framework. “Our government has a lot more to do in net neutrality but we have taken progressive and revolutionary steps in this regard,” he said.

Updated: November 24, 2017 — 6:25 am

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