The Ministry of External Affairs started a Technology Division because non-trade domains such as data protection and security, intellectual property rights, connectivity projects, and technology choices have “strategic connotations”, External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar said in Delhi yesterday. He said that going forward, India will have an “additional challenge” of creating new partnerships and encouraging greater mobility to service a knowledge economy.

In January, MEA set up a nodal division called New, Emerging and Strategic Technologies (NEST) division to work with foreign partners in 5G and artificial intelligence. This came after the government allowed Huawei to participate in India’s 5G field trials, despite being cautioned against doing so by the US, which sees Huawei as an espionage threat.

India’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, restricts cross border data flow, although it has been diluted over a previous iteration of the Bill. A government committee is also examining a framework for governing non-personal data, chaired by Infosys co-founder, Kris Gopalakrishnan. He has talked about the public benefits of data sharing, although, concerns have been raised about the IP rights of businesses who amass such databases.

The Minister also said that the prospect of addressing concerns related to the cyberspace domain are “less now when it should be more”.  This is significant, especially because in September 2019, the external network at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu was compromised.

Cybercrime cases have been on an increase in the country since 2016. Between 2016 and 2018, a total of 61,361 cyber crime incidents were registered in India. Worryingly, reported cyber crimes in 2018 increased 121% as opposed to 2016.