Public Digital Backbone/Chapter 6. Challenges and Risks

6. Challenges and Risks edit


“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” -Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Privacy, Security, and Governance

While the promise of a digital public infrastructure is immense, it isn't without its challenges. It is necessary to go deeper into the critical concerns of data privacy, security, and governance. Drawing from real-world instances and expert insights, we'll explore the intricacies of these challenges and the proactive measures that can be taken to mitigate them.


Data privacy concerns edit

Data privacy concerns in the context of Public Digital Backbone arise due to the vast amounts of personal and sensitive data that such infrastructures often handle. For instance, a national digital health system may contain records of millions of citizens, from medical histories to genetic data. If not appropriately protected, this information could be accessed and misused, leading to breaches of individual privacy. Another example is digital voting systems; if not properly secured, individuals' voting preferences could be exposed, or even manipulated. Public transportation systems using digital payment methods or tracking can inadvertently reveal a person's daily routine or location history. These instances underscore the need for robust data protection mechanisms within Public Digital Backbone to maintain the trust and confidence of the public.

Security and potential breaches edit

Security is of utmost importance in the realm of Public Digital Backbone, especially in a vast nation like India. The nation has embarked on ambitious projects that underscore its commitment to digital growth. The Aadhaar system, for instance, is a pioneering initiative that offers a unique identification number to every Indian citizen using biometrics. While there were concerns about its security, it has largely been successful in its reach and has been constantly updated to enhance its safety measures. The GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network), despite initial glitches, has showcased the nation's capacity to adapt and bolster security in response to challenges. These endeavors highlight India's proactive approach in addressing and improving cybersecurity, instilling greater confidence in the nation's Public Digital Backbone.

Inclusion: Ensuring no one is left behind edit

In India, the drive towards creating a digital public infrastructure has been notably focused on the principle of "Ensuring no one is left behind". This commitment to inclusion is evident in initiatives like the Aadhaar program, ensuring access to crucial government services and subsidies. The Unified Payments Interface (UPI), democratizes digital transactions, allowing users from urban centers to rural villages to transact seamlessly. Additionally, the DigiLocker project provides a digital locker for citizens to store personal documents, making public service requests more streamlined. Such endeavors aim to bridge the digital divide, ensuring benefits reach every stratum of the society, from bustling metropolitans to the remote villages of India.

Governance models and oversight edit

In India, the evolution of Public Digital Backbone has been marked by the emphasis on inclusion, ensuring that every citizen, regardless of socio-economic status, has access to essential digital services. The Aadhaar system is a prime example of this. As the world's largest biometric ID system, Aadhaar was designed to provide a unique identity for every Indian, facilitating better delivery of public and financial services. Yet, governance models and oversight are paramount in such ventures. Concerns over data privacy, potential misuse, and surveillance led to the Supreme Court of India setting boundaries on its usage in 2018. The court's intervention underscores the need for robust governance to balance technological advancements with individual rights. Another example is the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which revolutionized digital payments in India. While UPI ensured broader financial inclusion, its governance by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) ensures standardized protocols, security, and interoperability across banks, preserving trust in the system. Both instances exemplify how governance and oversight are critical to the success and inclusivity of Public Digital Backbone in India.

There are snakes, there are worriers