Empowering India Digitally Through Connected Platforms

“The Draft Personal Data Protection Bill is a foundational framework that aims to lay down the key principles governing the protection and privacy of personal data. This will spell out the rights of data principals- whose data is being processed and the responsibilities and obligations of Data Fiduciaries, to whom such data is entrusted for processing”, said Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology,(MeitY), Government of India, in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty & Dr. Rajeshree Dutta Kumar of BW SmartCitiesWorld.

The Digital India Programme, launched by the Government in 2015, has ensured that the Indian IT industry delivers world-class services at competitive quality and costs. The programme is leading to a transformation of India into a knowledge-based economy and digitally empowered society based on technology that is inclusive, affordable and sustainable. Please throw some light and share your vision on the same. 

The Government focusses on providing services to citizens in an affordable and efficient manner and to ensure Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. Digital delivery of services and a vast network of Common Services Centres(CSCs), that serve as walk-in locations for digital services, have simplified the way citizens interact with the Government to avail various services. The high-level coverage of Aadhaar has helped accelerate access to telecom services and financial inclusion on a large scale. Increased use of Digital Payments in the country has brought in transparency, convenience and speed into a wide spectrum of digital transactions. 

The success of existing public digital platforms like Aadhaar, UPI, GSTN, GeM has not only promoted inclusion but has also opened several pathways to India’s Digital Future. Our Digital Future is based on a strong foundation of digital infrastructure and expanded digital access. Our thrust is on creating more nationwide Public Digital Sectoral Platforms, creating next-generation infrastructure, strengthening Manufacturing with Expand & Export strategy and developing India as a software product nation. These efforts are among the core pillars of Digital India 2.0, that envisions a strong, secure and sustainable Digital Economy.

The draft e-commerce policy's section on 'data' is interfering with the proposed Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill 2018. How are you interpreting its impact in the long run?

The Draft Personal Data Protection Bill is a foundational framework that aims to lay down the key principles governing the protection and privacy of personal data. This will spell out the rights of data principals- whose data is being processed and the responsibilities and obligations of Data Fiduciaries, to whom such data is entrusted for processing. This foundation would suitably enable personal data protection and privacy to get embedded by design, across various sectors of the economy.

The Demonetization gave us an opportunity to take up Digital Payments initiative aggressively. How are you facilitating the fin-tech companies and start-ups to make the initiative more inclusive?

The Indian Fintech market is expected to touch USD 2.4 billion by 2020[1] from current USD 1.2 billion. Payment systems like UPI/IMPS are likely to register average annual growth of over 100[2] %. FinTech enterprises are actively working towards expanding the acceptance infrastructure through acquisition of low revenue merchants on digital acceptance platform. Various steps have been undertaken by MeitY to facilitate FinTechs, such as Weekly FinTech Start-up Interaction, FinTech Start-up Awards, Start-up Hub with special focus on FinTech, leveraging UPI Growth, bringing in a personal data protection framework, Tide 2.0 Scheme to help incubators and support Start-ups.

In a recent move, MeitY urges banks, oil marketing companies, top executives of the transport department, metro rail systems and others to accept National Common Mobility Card across the country. What all key beneficial features will be included in the NCMC? How will this benefit the citizens in the long run?

The National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) aims to provide a high degree of convenience to citizens by enabling seamless travel by different modes of transport across the country. The NCMC supports both online and offline transactions through dual interface (contact and contactless) and the passengers no longer have to stand in multiple queues for purchasing tickets. The card will accelerate ticketing especially in mass transit systems, based on stored value of money and the user will be able to top up the stored value through various modes of payments like Internet Banking, IVR and  Cash at customer service points. In addition, based on top up value, the card can be used for low value payments across various segments like toll payments, parking fees, smart-city services and other small value merchant and retail transactions. Going ahead, the card will support more and more applications to add convenience which will allow the citizens to use the same card for a variety of needs and also free them from the need to carry separate cards for banking and transit requirements. Already several banks have started issuing NCMC cards to their customers.  

NASSCOM is in talks with MeitY to fund skilling people on Future skills platform, its newest initiative. Would you please apprise us of this initiative and its benefits for the IT industry or likewise in the long run? 

MeitY and NASSCOM have jointly prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on Re-skilling/Up-skilling of IT professionals, titled ‘Future skills PRIME (Programme for Re-skilling/Up-skilling of IT Manpower for Employability)’ to re-skill/up-skill 4.12 lakh candidates over a duration of 3 (three) years in 10 Emerging Technologies- Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things, Additive Manufacturing/ 3D Printing, Big Data Analytics Robotic Process Automation, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Blockchain, Virtual Reality. The project is a B2C model catering to a wide range of IT professionals, which in addition to being available online will also offer an option of blended learning. 

Please elaborate to us on the key amendments in the draft Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules], 2018. What measures are in pipeline to include traceability feature lead to breaking of encryption on apps such as Whastapp and likewise? 

With the growth of social media as well as increasing instances of misuse of intermediaries’ platforms by certain section of users, and also technological advancement, it was felt necessary to relook into the Intermediaries Guidelines Rules notified in 2011. Accordingly, certain amendments were proposed in the Intermediaries Guidelines Rules which, inter-alia, further defines and clarifies aspects of due diligence expected from the Intermediaries to claim exemption from certain liabilities under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. Public comments have been obtained on the proposed guidelines and are being suitably analyzed. 

MeitY to set up Centre of Excellence (CoE) for gaming and animation in Hyderabad. Please appraise us of the initiative and its status of implementation. Are there more such CoE to come up in other parts of the country? What benefits do you feel that this initiative will reap for the economy in long turn? 

A proposal for a Centre of Excellence for Gaming, VFX, Computer Vision & AI at Hyderabad is presently under consideration which is proposed to be set up in collaboration with Govt. of Telangana, IIIT-Hyderabad, the Gaming industry and other stakeholders.

The proposed CoE shall act as a single-window facilitation centre to extend requisite lab support, funding & mentoring etc in an innovative way for budding entrepreneurs & start-ups in this field.

Earlier this year MeitY announced setting up a start-up incubator in Chennai at an estimated cost of INR 23 crore. Are more such start-up incubators to come up in the times to come? Please share. 

 MeitY has established a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in FinTech in STPI Chennai that would establish an ecosystem around FinTech with the latest trends and technologies in the financial services sector through a collaborative approach including NPCI, UIDAI and Partner Banks. The CoE would support FinTech start-ups in terms of providing access to sandbox environment from National Payments Corporation of India, Payment Gateways and Application Programming Interface (APIs) from Partner Bank(s) for pilot testing of newly developed technologies. Centres of Excellence in other domain are also taking shape e.g. CoE on Internet of Things (IoT) at Bengaluru and Gurugram, CoE on Autonomous Connected Electric Shared Vehicles (ACES) at Pune, etc.

[1] Source :NASSCOM

[2] Source: RBI Payment vision document 2019-21