Earlier, information security used to be a techie concern of IT managers. Of late, it has been an increasingly serious matter for the government as well.
One, there is the widely-publicised Blackberry issue that is yet to be settled. Then, there has been a growing concern around cyber attacks from certain countries, which has led to an announcement that Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be developing an indigenous operating system (OS).
How do security concerns affect various ICT users? Well, in organisations, users’ needs and priorities are quite different from those of ICT providers and managers. While IT managers consider information security as a topmost priority, users care more about service availability and quality, though they still take steps to ward off security threats.
The non-business users–the consumers–seem to be even less bothered, though with Web 2.0 raising the security and privacy threats manifold, one would expect them to be very worried, especially about privacy. On the contrary, they seem to be redefining boundaries of privacy while they shed inhibitions to post personal messages, photos and videos in public domains. Who cares, seems to be the new normal for the new generation, as they fight privacy concerns by making privacy itself less relevant. Smart consumer consciousness at play, isn’t it?
On information and data security front, consumers seem to be even less worried, as more and more content gets stored on the cloud, aka the Internet. This has drastically reduced the fear of data loss due to a hardware failure or a virus attack. For today’s consumers, security is a hassle that service providers like Google, Facebook, Apple or Nokia should instead be bothered about.
Coming back to India’s OS plans, it looks like the ware will be opened up for non-government users as well, which implies that consumers could be a target segment too.
Well, while an indigenous OS would be a laudable achievement, it will be interesting to see if consumers will be keen to adopt it. For that to happen, the developers will need to focus on aspects other than security–the premise that has fuelled the plan in the first place. Quality of experience–comprising start-up time, user interface and support for various applications, among a host of other things–will form the basis for the OS’ adoption among Indian consumers, who have long been exposed to world-class ICT and will find an inferior experience unattractive.
Sure, India very much has the talent and know-how for building a world-class OS, but a consumer version of it will need a different orientation altogether.
Yet, the OS plan announced by DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat looks like a nice sequel to the 35-dollar tablet PC announcement made by HRD minister Kapil Sibal earlier. If the two projects can find synergies, the combo yield can be much better than solo solutions. There are also hints of an industry participation, which could do more good to the project.
India is an emerging ICT market with much untapped potential. Moreover, there are strong chances that products accepted by a rich variety of consumer segments here will have a global appeal too!
Sure, it can make good business sense for the government, if the government does mean business.
(As published in Deccan Chronicle on October 14, 2010.)

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