Digital India needs real IT experts. Not Ankit Fadia
The government relies on clueless bureaucrats who believe they understand the internet because they can use email.
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The Indian government has done it again. It seems as if the government doesn't want to focus on core issues and just wants to create hype, irrespective of the real potential behind some of the programmes. Digital India, for example, is great as a vision. But it needs actual work on the ground. Instead, the government seem to be focussing on getting on board people like Ankit Fadia, who allegedly have questionable technology skills and lack any sort of vision.
Yes, Ankit Fadia has been appointed as the ambassador for the Digital India programme. Why? We don't know. Fadia is often dubbed one of the top ethical hackers in the world. Unfortunately, that comes from Fadia's own camp. A lot of experts in India's tech community scoff at his claims and call him a charlatan. For example, Charles Assisi of Forbes once wrote a piece in which he acknowledged that he would call Fadia a "charlatan".
Then there are the so called experts inside the Indian government departments.
Last week, a few "experts" in the department of telecom came up with a draft for a new encryption policy in India. Encryption is at the core of almost all digital services - from netbanking to WhatsApp - so this was a very important policy. But it was so bad that people deemed it, rightly, a joke. A day after journalists wrote about it, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad publicly denounced it and said the government was scrapping it.
The fiasco is not new. Earlier, we saw something similar when TRAI's (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) report on net neutrality consultations came out. That too was prepared by a team of "experts" and that too was full of ridiculous and disingenuous assertions.
This is the century of information technology, just the way the earlier one was industrial. Everyone gets that much. Yet, the government of India continues to make blunders when it comes to understanding the ways of the digital world. And there is one reason for that. The so-called "experts" that the government relies on are actually clueless bureaucrats who believe they understand the digital world because they can use email.
The most unfortunate bit is that these "experts" are all over the government departments. For India, CERT is supposed to be the nodal agency to deal with cyber security. But this is an agency staffed with such "experts" that its primary work is issuing threat advisories for malware and viruses identified months ago.
The "experts" muddy up the water in all departments. That is why experts in IT law advice the government on how to block all porn sites in the country, even though such a thing is not feasible. Then there are government experts in cyber security that probably tell law enforcement authorities that anyone who can go to a folder setting and make changes to see file types is probably a hacker. Or anyone who can scan a Wi-Fi network is probably a threat to the nation's security.
For a government department, coming up with something like the draft encryption policy is a matter of shame. Unfortunately, unless the government stops working with the likes of Fadia and instead starts working with real experts, people who have grown up with the web, who understand the digital culture, and deal with the infrastructure that powers it, such draft policy recommendations would keep coming out.