Budget 2018: India today, has become ripe as a nation to come up with dedicated allocations of budget on cybersecurity. Earlier, cybersecurity was never given such an importance in the budget but owing to the historical events that have taken place in India, post demonetization, specific allocations on cybersecurity budgets is a sine qua non if any actions are to be taken against the massively increasing cybersecurity breaches. Not just specific allocations in Budget 2018, but spending heads within different categories of cyber security spendings in the budget need to be allocated, so that there is more clarity on the appropriate financial support and various capacity building measures in this direction.
Urgent need for more spending on cyber security
The 10% figure of allocation to cybersecurity in the entire IT Budget is extremely meagre. India is a different ball game altogether, and if it has to become a digitally empowered nation and a global IT superpower that it aims to be, then there needs to be a bigger percentage figure allocated to cybersecurity, of the total IT Budget in order to be able to create a mechanism that will survive the growing attacks by state and non-state actors on the Indian Critical Information infrastructure. The need for more spending in India on cybersecurity is higher than the global average because of India’s high aspirations and hopes in the Digital India program. Cybersecurity is the foundation fulcrum and if that is not adequately addressed in Budget 2018, the entire Digital India Program may be prejudicially impacted.
India needs adopt a ‘leapfrogging method’ rather than a traditional one. With emerging technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), Blockchains etc., spending needs to be done in the said emerging sectors, both the corporate and government level. By insisting on government departments on having CISOs in place, India can instantaneously put focus on the significance of cybersecurity in Budget 2018. A hybrid approach needs to be taken by keeping in mind the existing technologies as well as putting focus on new technologies. As a growing digital power, India cannot exclude concentration on newly emerging technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI, as they are more critical and can help in becoming catalysts to further India’s growth.
India must shed ostrich approach while dealing with cryptocurrencies
As regards cryptocurrencies, their legal status is yet to be decided in India. One thing is for sure, cryptocurrencies are the present and the future and for those purposes, an adequate and effective legal framework and mechanism in this regard, is an urgent necessity. India should not be seen to be a repressive regime, but a regime that looks at more enablement and uses the emerging cryptocurrencies as a leapfrogging platform to further its national growth. Crypto-currencies are a reality today. India does not need to have an ostrich approach while dealing with crypto-currencies. India needs to work in the direction of firstly, granting legality to crypto currencies and secondly, granting adequate budgets for enabling support and growth of the cryptocurrency economy as a whole. The day is not far, when India might introduce its own cryptocurrency owing to the developments in this field. If sufficient budget is not allocated, it would mean that there will be no adequate support available to the cryptocurrency ecosystem which could act as a detriment in terms of further dissemination and adoption of cryptocurrencies.
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More allocations must be made in Budget 2018 for the digital payments sector owing to its massive growth especially after demonetization. The monies that are allocated in this regard are not sufficient. More monies need to be allocated in Budget 2018 and channelized so as to curb the increase in cybercrimes and their propagation in digital payments.
To conclude, the expectations from Budget 2018 are high. We will have to wait as to how the budget fares in this direction. Nevertheless, people have a legitimate expectation from this budget that it allocates funds in newly emerging and significant sectors, to pave the way for the further growth of India as a Digital Nation.
The author Pavan Duggal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, is an internationally acclaimed authority and expert on Cyberlaw and Cyber Security Law. He is also Chairman of the International Commission on Cyber Security Law and President of Cyberlaws.Net.