The dinosaurs didn’t evolve…

I recently bought the latest issue (July) of Digit Magazine (India) for two reasons: It has a cover story on Big Data. The second reason is a little book titled “Fast Track” series that comes with the magazine. The July edition of Fast Track is themed on E-learning apps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). It helpfully reviews all the popular MOOCs and some great e-learning apps, that you can download on your smartphone — for learning on the go.

And when I registered at Coursera and other MOOCs, I wondered why Indian Universities and colleges are not doing MOOCs. We have had distance learning and correspondence courses (such as IGNOU) for years, and MOOCs are the next level in self-learning. MOOCs such as Coursera offer a variety of university-linked courses, some with the official university certification.

Now I am also told that Indians staying in India are yet to cultivate that habit of self-learning, preferring to learn in a real classroom, with a real teacher, and a real blackboard.

But that notion is beginning to change. I am seeing certain private classes in my city (Mumbai) successfully implementing virtual learning systems. Now private classes and tutorial institutions are doing roaring business in India, taking advantage of the country’s sloppy education system. So if I can learn from the comfort of my bedroom and watch re-runs of a recorded classroom session — that beats rushing out to a late evening class, clashing with  crowds in public transport on the way.

Today’s generation is lucky to have the Internet, smart phones and e-learning apps, and tech that enables virtual classrooms. So I do hope that our youth take advantage of this, and keep learning.

It is shocking to read media reports about State Governments giving away laptops and tablets for free. And these are being misused by our youth. If state governments think they can boost literacy in their state by giving students free laptops, they are wasting their funds. Instead, use that money to build more schools and improve infrastructure. Increase the salaries of teachers (who are paid a pittance, or do not receive their salaries for months).

The free devices should come loaded with e-learning apps and subsidized e-learning services, so that our youth can immediately start learning. And do block all those unproductive sites.

I truly believe that if one stops learning, their value in an ever-changing industry starts to decline. And they would soon be extinct, outmoded, redundant and then jobless. If you ever reach that stage, you have only yourself to blame.

Because, like the Dinosaurs, you just didn’t evolve and survive.

(Yes I know, it was something else that made the dinosaurs extinct).



Report-2: 6th DSCI Best Practices meet — IT Act and its Amendments

India does not have a data protection law and data security is thought more of as a regulatory system. Our communication satellites are very vulnerable and can be zapped out by the enemy. There is a cost-benefit analysis to cybercrime. 

Bold statements like these made me sit up and pay close attention during the presentation by Dr. N.L Mitra, Senior Partner-Fox Mandal and Ex-Director, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

And what should our country do about all this?

Statement #1: India does not have a data protection law.

Well, the US has 2 data protection laws and the UK has two Evidence Acts; India has one.

Action: We must take proactive steps to secure our own data. Being reactive will not help. Progressive thinking in this direction is required.

Statement #2: Communication satellites can be shot down. 

Action: We need to stop worrying about it and start preparing for an incident like this. How do we protect our critical communications infrastructure? How do we respond to an attack?

This invoked a thought: Remember the ambitious “Star Wars” defense plan proposed by the Ronald Reagan government in 1983? It was officially labelled Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and it was a plan to blast nuclear tipped enemy missiles before they hit their intended ground-based or space lodged US targets. Can India create a missile shield to protect its space-based assets?

Statement #3: There is a cost-benefit analysis to cyber crime.

It’s a known fact that most people in India can get away with cyber crime and it is not easy to track down criminals. Even if they are caught, it would take at least 7 years to penalize someone, thanks to our sluggish legal system and courts. 

Action: An independent regulatory authority is required for . cyber crimes.

I’d like to add: It should be an autonomous body and there should be no interference from other national investigation agencies.


Here’s what Dr. Mitra recommended.

  • There is a need to develop a best practice code.
  • Need for business or industrial ethics.
  • More data certification officers are needed.
  • Private industry must engage with government.
  • NASSCOM needs to establish a research centre for Data Security.


Report-1: 6th DSCI Best Practices meet — IT Act and its Amendments

I’ve just returned to Mumbai after attending the 6th DSCI Best Practices meet in Bangalore (Twitter: @DSCI_connect). The event returns to its home base, Bangalore this year (it was held in Chennai last year). I say “home base” because Bangalore is regarded as the biggest chapter (300 members); a lot of contribution has come from this chapter. And from the good attendance it was obvious that Bangaloreans really missed the event last year. 

The event kicked off on 9th July with some very exclusive workshops (by-invitation only). I attended the workshop on the IT Act and its Amendments, conducted by DSCI and Fox Mandal. The latter is a 100 year old law firm and has been working closely with DSCI for over a year on policy making, and to address various concerns on Information Security.

Mr. Vinayak Godse, Director-Data Protection, DSCI opened the workshop. He pointed out that DCSI was involved in framing the IT Act 2008, particularly Section 43 A on Data Protection. 

Some points from Mr. Godse’s presentation:

  • The Internet is a medium of empowerment in society. It imparts values and rights, which are being challenged. How are the rights being governed today? (Recall various incidents about Indians being impeached and humiliated for liking political-related comments on social media).
  • The Internet is really about content (created by users and organizations).
  • It is a medium that enhances communication and helps in business and strategic transactions.
  • There is a legal requirements to enhance and uphold rights & values — and to protect entities who communicate via the Internet.

Mr. Godse also spoke about Artists & Entities — the latter are intermediaries who provide the platform. Intermediaries and body corporates need to be governed separately. And he discussed the various types of cyber crimes and what kind of impact they could have on society and the nation.

I had a passing thought that sent shivers down my spine: In an increasingly connected world, where anyone has access to a mass media publishing platform (social media networks and instant messaging apps, for instance), it’s really easy for mischief makers, anti-social and anti-national elements to spread rumors that could disrupt peace and harmony.

Are we doing enough to look out for these threats? How does the law, specifically the IT Act, check this?

Mr. Godse concluded by alluding to the fact that the IT Act is far from perfect, when it comes to data protection, privacy and freedom of expression. He said we need to look at equivalent IT Acts in other countries and learn from those acts.

More posts on this DSCI event follow soon. 

Stay tuned.