In response to domestic and international pressure to enhance cybersecurity measures, the government of India released the National Cyber Security Policy, which set forth 14 objectives that included enhancing the protection of critical infrastructure and developing 500,000 skilled cybersecurity professionals by the end of year 2018. A key component of NCSP is the development of public–private partnership (PPP) efforts to enhance the cybersecurity landscape. PPPs are especially well-suited for areas that require diverse types of expertise and knowledge to address complex problems, including cybersecurity.
There are 2 key features of the Indian economy affect its cybersecurity posture:
- Owing to the rapidly growing IT and business process management (IT&BPM) sector and its various data breaches, the country is facing unprecedented pressure from foreign offshoring clients and Western governments to strengthen cybersecurity. In 2011, the US and India signed a memorandum of understanding to promote cybersecurity-related cooperation and exchange information. In bilateral talks, the US emphasized India’s need for capacity building in cybersecurity, especially in cybercrime detection and investigation. Because India is a major offshoring destination for back offices and other high-value business functions, cybersecurity orientation of Indian businesses has been an issue of pressing concern to US and other Western businesses.
- The Indian government severely lacks the resources to develop and enforce criminal cybersecurity-related regulations, standards, and guidelines. For instance, in 2011, the police cybercrime cell of Delhi had only two inspectors. In 2012, the Delhi High Court noted the Delhi police website’s lack of functionality, calling it completely useless and obsolete. Until 2010, there wasn’t a single cybercrime-related conviction in Bangalore, the country’s biggest offshoring hub. One law enforcement officer attributed the low conviction rates to the police’s lack of technical skills, knowledge, and training in collecting evidence. For instance, when a police officer was asked to seize a hacker’s computer, he brought in the monitor. In another case, the police seized the CD-ROM drive from a hacker’s computer instead of the hard disk.
Nascent and formative areas such as cybersecurity are often characterized by underdeveloped regulatory structures. There’s no template for policy development, assessment, and analysis. Developing templates, monitoring the behaviors of individuals and organizations, and enforcing regulations require extensive resources and expertise in such areas. However, most governments in developing countries are characterized by weak public administration, inadequate technical competence, and lack of political will in the implementation of economic and social policies.
Because of above factors, India’s IT&BPM sector manages cybersecurity risk through effective industry self-regulation. A highly visible private-sector actor is the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). Owing primarily to the uptick in data incidents, addressing data security and privacy issues has become increasingly important for the Indian IT&BPM sector’s success and vitality. In 2008, realizing the importance of an organization with an exclusive focus on data protection, NASSCOM established the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a self-regulatory member organization. DSCI’s mission is to create trust in Indian companies as global outsourcing service providers. Its focus on cybersecurity is to harness data protection as a lever for economic development of India through global integration of practices and standards conforming to various legal regimes. DSCI took over most of NASSCOM’s data protection–related activities. NASSCOM and DSCI have been exemplary self-regulatory bodies, playing key roles in strengthening the IT&BPM sector’s cybersecurity orientation.
The Need for PPP
Prior research suggests that the public and private sectors’ different strengths, expertise, and experience could lead to complementary roles in meeting developmental and social needs.8 A unique strength of the state government is its ability to impose harsh sanctions and penalties on violators of laws and regulations. Trade associations such as NASSCOM often have this level of technical expertise and resources and don’t face some of the constraints that limit the state’s ability to monitor and control cybercrime activities.
India’s digital economy has benefited greatly from NASSCOM’s and DSCI’s expertise in the interpretation, implementation, and application of data protection principles and their role as a repository of experience and source of cybersecurity best practices and cutting-edge knowledge. In this way, these agencies have been a driving force that has a major effect on India’s cybersecurity posture. In sum, whereas the government lacks resources, expertise, and legitimacy to develop new templates, monitor the behaviors of industries, and enforce laws, trade associations’ influences are likely to be more readily apparent. With well-focused priorities, trade associations will likely be better, more effective, and more efficient institutions to effect change in this area.
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