1. A Discussion about the newly published Book titled “Data Sovereignty: The Pursuit of Supremacy” co-authored by Lt Gen VM Patil, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Lt Gen DB Shekatkar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Lt Gen Vinod Khandare, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Shri Jayadeva Ranade, Shri Vinit Goenka and Shri Bharat Panchal, was conducted at Purple Bay conference hall on 21 Jun 2019. Three of the authors namely, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Shri Jayadeva Ranade and Shri Vinit Goenka were present to elaborate upon the book. Lt Gen Rajesh Pant, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), National Cyber Security Coordinator was invited to discuss the book and release it.
2. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Director, CENJOWS and co-author, set the tone for further discussions by explaining the evolving nuances of ‘Power’. As per him, while Power 1.0 signified ‘might is right’, Power 2.0 related to ‘money power’ and Power 3.0 acknowledged that ‘knowledge is power’. Power 4.0 moved on to ‘information power’, which has led to the contemporary genre of Power 5.0 wherein ‘data is power’. He posited that Geo-technology would control the geo-politics, geo-strategy and geo-economics of a nation’s transition from Global power to a Global leader. It was therefore imperative that India too must leverage geo-technology through collection, collation and analysis of big data; if it seeks to transform from military power to a military leader. With this context, he invited his co-author to carry the book discussion forward.
3. Discussion of the Book by Shri Vinit Goenka, Co-Author. The co-author gave a historical context of ‘colonisation’ of the past wherein whosoever controlled the resources held the power to rule over others. In the current context, the same analogy was applicable to the data. While the data volumes generated on account of sizeable progress in IT in India were quite enormous, he lamented the fact that not even 25 percent of this data resided within the country. Thus it was beyond the sovereign control of the Indian State. India presents a huge market because of its large population and increasing purchasing power. The analysis of big data related to Indians residing outside its territory, enables foreign companies to draw patterns and influence consumer behaviour for financial benefits. The data controlling State can also colonise the target State by influencing public opinion on national, security, economic and other important issues. Put simply, one who holds data, also decides its usage – whether for simple financial gain or for complex harmful purposes.
4. Comments by Shri Jayadeva Ranade, Co-Author. The Co-Author reiterated that the data being continuously generated, sometimes even without our knowledge or consent, was integral to our economy and its growth. He averred that next 30 years were going to be shaped by artificial intelligence (AI), and that the data is the fuel for AI. Further, all means of communication for transmission of data – including the upcoming 5G – also become important tools of date collection, collation and analysis. Since India is a large consumer of Chinese communication hardware and applications, China will in due course, be in possession of about one fourth of the Global data when it integrates its own country’s data with that collected from India. China can then exploit this big data for predictive analysis of behavioural patterns. Given the uncertainty in India-China ‘relations’, this data possession can place China in a hugely advantageous position in all three domains – geo-politics, geo-strategy and geo-economics – vis-à-vis India, if it decides to leverage it.
5. Comments by Lt Gen Rajesh Pant, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), Discussant. The Lt Gen began by pointing out that data security in India was based on similar principles of other security structures; wherein the core assets were provided fool-proof security and the balance were kept under broad security umbrella, with intervention happening on as required basis. He then assured the audience that for core data including that related to national critical infrastructure like Aadhar, power-grids, transportation sector etc., there was secure and resilient data security mechanism in place. He also disclosed that Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) was scheduled to be tabled in Parliament this year, which had the provisions for graded levels of data sovereignty viz, Red (All data resides in country), Amber (copy of data resides in country) and green (data flow allowed across borders). He also assured all present that robust security systems were being built for data security before 5G rolls out in India.
6. The Book discussion was followed by animated comments and Q&A session. A representative from Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) informed the audience that Railtel network which handles massive data flow on a daily basis, had no Chinese components in its hardware and thus was reliably secure from outside interference. This was despite limitations of procurement procedures and processes applicable to any government enterprise. He also disclosed that regulatory provisions for use of Railtel network as alternate means of secure communication by Army, Navy, Air Force, central armed police forces and other security agencies, were also in place.
7. The book discussion concluded by the release of the book by Lt Gen Rajesh Pant (Retd) and the three co-authors. Thereafter Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd), Director, CENJOWS, closed the proceedings by reiterating that India had the best IT human resource base, and that suitable policy directives were required to leverage it for big data exploitation to the nation’s benefit.