As New India aspires to build smart cities and develop infrastructure, it is as necessary to simultaneously work on safety measures
As we are trying to collectively build a stronger India, one thing that comes to mind is the safety of citizens. In today’s world, Indian citizens are exposed to ‘level 2.0’ of safety threats that include drones, cyber threats and terror. Empirical examples from around the world show that terrorists are effectively using technology and social media to spread propaganda and access confidential information. And India, having some of the fastest-growing cities in the world, act as a perfect ground for a terrorist to penetrate. Therefore, as New India aspires to build smart cities and develop infrastructure, it is as necessary to simultaneously work on safety measures. This must be done in three areas, namely - intelligence, the internet and social media.
One thing that became evident after 26/11 was that there was that India’s intelligence needed to vastly improve, especially when it came to communicating information to the relevant body in a timely manner. Easier said than done. During 9/11 in the USA, the CIA did have information about hijackers being present in the country but this was not communicated to the FBI. So what needs to be done? One good thing that came out of 26/11 was that the Centre immediately took steps to improve intelligence gathering and coordination between security agencies. Statistically, this has reduced the number of terror attacks in urban areas. Additionally, multi-agency coordination centres (MACCs) and subsidiary multi-agency coordination centres have been established. More needs to be done. Inter-communication in security agencies must improve using secure technology. This will in turn speed up coordination and action.
Terrorism has turned digital. The most recent national elections saw the spread of propaganda, as well as the introduction of fake news sparking panic and digital disruption in infrastructure. While Digital India and cashless transactions bring in transparency, accountability and increased access, there are certain things that need to be taken care of. The biggest item is individual information. The central government has already started enacting cyber legislations and has established cybersecurity bodies including creating a division for Cyber and Information Security as part of the Ministry of Home Affairs. This is just a start. India needs to build effective systems to counter cyberthreats and keep individual information secure at the earliest. The nation is also in dire need of cybersecurity policy for the public sector, the private sector, the government and for the individual. This policy should include the most effective ways of cyber-resilience and managing cyber threats. Cyber-capabilities must increase in every state. Along with that, higher education should include cyber-security awareness and training. Young minds educated in cyber-security can help build upon and/or innovate robust systems with the newest technology.
With the exponential usage in smartphones, individual digital footprints are without a doubt in existence. The danger to this? Social media platforms are now being used by terrorists to widen their reach, recruit followers and spread radical information. Terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s website contains information on how to build bombs. Communication using fake profiles is relatively easy as well on social media platforms. The impact of terrorism using social media could plainly be seen with radicalisation amongst youth. It is up to India’s security agencies to be robust with monitoring these platforms and publishing counter-narratives in such cases. Additionally, improved monitoring technology should be used to locate terrorist posts. In this case, hard power should be used to infiltrate and punish those that are caught.
When planning the development of cities, collaboration between the government and citizens is absolutely integral to ensure the safety of India’s people and organisations. More dialogue should be held between decision-makers and qualified professionals. Innovation in security technology should be encouraged and financed. Education and awareness on protection from cyberthreat should be spread consistently on that individuals are aware and conscious.
A major hurdle that also needs to be taken care of is the transportation of security personnel. Government investment on mass transit systems is a great step in the right direction to tackle this problem. And speaking of investments, more is needed to enhance security agency capabilities in India. We need to start using the best technology to catch and tackle cyberthreat. Legislation must pass that contains both awareness and strategy against threat. More and more people will be living in urban areas as the country continues to grow. Therefore, security preparedness is essential to developing a city holistically if India aims to become a developed country in the near future.
(Views expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)