We are paranoid about data protection: MD & CEO, NSDL e-Governance

National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), e-Governance has played a pioneering role in laying down the basic infrastructure for e-Governance in the country, and has built a massive database covering almost 60 crore cases

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 8:58 AM

India’s push to digital economy has paced up in the last few years. The incumbent government is on a mission mode to transform public sector into a digital first entity. With lowering data rates and penetration of smartphones, impressive growth has been achieved in realizing the digital economy dream.

National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), e-Governance has played a pioneering role in laying down the basic infrastructure for e-Governance in the country. Over the years it has been an enabler of this digital first push and has built a massive database covering various sectors.

According to Gagan Rai, MD & CEO, NSDL e-Governance, the digital transformation of public sector is witnessing a good beginning but there is still a long way to go. He says, “There are many public sector areas where digitization is required. The highest percentage of digitization has taken place in the taxing domain and manufacturing sector, while in other areas like land records it’s yet to start."

With the recent Facebook data breach involving Cambridge Analytica, data protection has become a key discussion point with many arguing for fresh legislation to ensure data security. Sharing the developments on the data security aspect in the public sector, Rai adds, “Our technology is absolutely state-of- the- art. We also take care of aspects like scalability, and if you look at the numbers we have 21 crore pan cards, 2 crore NPS accounts, 9 crore Aadhar cards, 1.3 crore e-signs, 20 crore e-KYC’s, so in all around 60 crore data points. Having these huge numbers demands proper system security and we have end-to-end encryption and Disaster Recovery Site (DRS) to ensure that precious data is protected all the time. Most importantly the right to access data is given depending on the function that person is performing followed by a total audit trail. We are very paranoid and strict about data protection. We have to keep pace with the hackers and the data security aspect is a never ending exercise.”

In digitally mature ecosystems, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used as a tool to bring more efficiency to huge volumes of data. Though this practice is part of the private sector, the public sector in India is still catching up with this concept. Explaining the journey from digitization to use of AI in public sector, Rai states, “There are three stages of digital process. First is to digitize, putting everything on digital, second is about using that data (transactions) and third is artificial intelligence. Currently, we are in the second stage. So use of data for transactional efficiency is what we have achieved and the next stage will be data analytics and AI, which is yet to be introduced in the public sector.”

As we know, the strength of the Indian digital economy is its sheer data volumes, which is one of the largest in the world. The public and private sectors have worked in silos as far as data sharing is concerned. So will India’s push to digital economy witness greater collaboration of public-private data partnership? Rai offers, “I think this kind of collaboration will take some more time and honestly we haven’t given much thought it till now. In India we are very paranoid about data protection. On the other hand private players like Amazon, Flipkart and Facebook are not as paranoid as we are. May be this is the reason why there is breach in Facebook and never in NSDL. I think such collaboration cannot happen in the near future, there is still time till we reach that stage.”

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