I am watching Narendrabhai welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mamallapuram, and the part that really strikes me is Jinpingji alighting from a brute of a car that I could not recognise.
As I searched online, I discovered that it is a “Hongqi”, a car that is flown all the way from China.
While the official explanation for the absurd idea of flying a car across the oceans is that it will promote Chinese brands, I refuse to swallow it, as I and you both now know that we are living in a world of hi-tech surveillance and complete mistrust.
It is clear that Chinese president understands the need of secrecy, and has given it high priority, and hence he is not even ready to use a car that we can easily offer, so it raises a very pertinent question for us in India.
Do we, as a nation really understand the security threat in the new age cyber world where data is power?
The question looks complicated and you may feel that we, the citizens may not be aware of all the technicalities of cyber-security to know the answer, but truth is, the answer is in front of us, and it is a resounding “NO” for a simple reason.
We are a nation that runs most of its systems on private operating systems like Windows or iOS, to name a few, and we are not realising how stupid that is.
There is all the likelihood that our PMO is full of Microsoft Windows driven computers and most of our officers are sending emails between all departments using a private service like Gmail. It may sound innocuous right now, but it will appear amazingly and devastatingly stupid if India finds herself in a war with the world at some point for protecting our precious national sovereignty.
The idea of using softwares made by private players is a great security threat, but almost equally insane is the economic implications of the same.
At this point, we pay premium for using the softwares that we can easily make. And if we don’t, we have also empowered (under our IPR act) any foreign company a right to walk into our homes and offices and even have us arrested if they want to!
But, even if we set the IPR issue aside and focus on cyber security, there is no explanation why we don’t have a national OS that we control and is available to all Indians to use free of cost.
While the idea of Bharat Operating System (BOS) has been floating around since a while, for some strange reason, the governments of past have never really understood the security implications of the same.
What we really need is a state-made free-for-all OS that has graded versions ranging from military (highest security and mandatory) to government to business to home computers.
Though the last two need not have extreme security built-in, in the long run it will be nice to have a complete shift to BOS across all sector, so they must have added freebies in terms of basic softwares and encourage us common Indians to use it, as it can save all of us a lot of money and we can be freed from the terror of IPR that MNCs are unleashing.
The idea of state provided and maintained softwares may have its limitations, but exploring it as a replacement in some sectors like Office or even Computer Aided Design (CAD) may have a huge implication in terms of money.
If India offers a PC with all the basic softwares to her people, it will be a big boost even for the entrepreneurs of the nations who are currently forced to use pirated softwares and thus are constantly under the threat of being raided and harassed.
Even though privatisation is the Mantra of modern times, this is one sector where Indian government has to consider entering for the sake of not just national security but also as part of the ongoing initiative of providing business infrastructure to the people.
While the security and economic implications of such a move are huge, its implementation is not very difficult.
Any IIT (or even a state university, if IITs are not interested) can be roped into doing this job. As we are one of the best brains in software making, it is not at all a technologically difficult project for the state to take up. All it requires is a will and understanding of the threat.
I hope that the current government, with its focus on national security as well as providing business infrastructure takes this issue up urgently.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.