How blockchain can protect India's data

Protecting data is rapidly becoming a national priority. As India moves to digital and cyber platforms, protection of data is important for government and private institutions as well as for companies that store information about individual users. 

While there have been many debates about privacy and ownership of data, the key issue is about protection. How can institutions protect the data about themselves and related individuals? 

The focus on data protection has been highlighted by a new report by Thales that indicates that spending on information and data security is rising rapidly across the world and even in India. Over 93 per cent of the respondents of the Thales survey plan to increase investment in protecting data. This is above the global average of 78 per cent, says the 2018 Thales Data Threat Report. 

The question then is of how best to protect data. An overwhelming number of companies are now looking at blockchain to secure their data. “We believe blockchain and the applications it will support may well disrupt nearly all business models when it comes to displacing timeworn, traditional means of securing transactions and protecting data.” Over 92 per cent of global respondents say they have a plan to adopt blockchain.  About 99 per cent of respondents in India plan to use blockchain for data protection. While blockchain has many uses, globally it has emerged as the most favoured technology for data protection. 

 Blockchain has not been appreciated yet because of its strong linkage with crypto-currencies. Indian regulators are concerned and cautions about cryptocurrencies. But cryptocurrencies are just one of the applications of blockchain.  The distributed ledger system has the capability of protecting information in an almost inviolable manner. 

The survey and report by Thales on use of blockchain for data protection finds resonance in several projects in India. Many state governments including Uttar Pradesh (UP) are now experimenting with blockchain for securing important data. Land and revenue records of UP will be stored and saved in blockchain based platforms. Similarly, Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have begun similar pilot projects too. Bodies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is using blockchain for itself while urging mobile service operators to do so. The State Bank of India is working with 30 other banks to create a blockchain based exchange that will allow them to share and protect data on bad debts. Information about creditors and depositors can be effectively stored and protected on blockchain platforms. 

However, Indian institutions have to be careful about using blockchain. To begin with, India needs more professionals who are adept at creating and managing blockchain based solutions. The biggest challenge in using blockchain for data protection is the data itself. Once stored in a blockchain platform the data can't be tampered with. The problem lies at the input level. Government and private agencies have to be extremely careful about the information that is stored. Any error or mischief in storing data will create serious problems. Blockchain does not authenticate the input, it merely saves it in an immutable manner. 

Lack of understanding and poor implementation can create more problems than the blockchain can solve. High quality network speed is also required to ensure efficient data transfer and access. National and local agencies will need to invest in the relevant human and physical infrastructure to make the most of blockchain. 

It is estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every data across the world. As 100s of millions of Indian are set to join the digital revolution, India's data generation will grow multifold. India has to prepare to measure, manage and protect this impending data surge. 

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