Wall, wall in the mirror, who’ll point out the official’s error?


So our data is safe. So our government assures us. So it is secure behind a wall five feet thick and ten feet high. So why am I worried? Do I think the wall should be 8 by 15? No, not really. Data, like love, recognises no barriers.

How do I put this delicately? What is wrong with you officials, what are you smoking? Too subtle? Perhaps, you are right. How about this: ask your twelve-year-old what is wrong with that plan. When in doubt about such matters, it is usually good policy to consult the nearest 12-year-old.

In fact, no one above the age of 25 should be allowed to make official pronouncements about IT. Thirty is a good retirement age for IT ministers and officials arguing IT cases. Often age comes with wisdom, but more often age comes alone.

But let’s get back to the wall nut. When the radio came to India, an ancestor of this person (or maybe this person himself) probably told our countrymen that the only way to deal with the evil spirits that seemed to be speaking from within it would be to bury the instrument in the back yard.

And when television made its Indian debut, he probably told us to be well dressed and on our best behaviour in case those folks appearing in it could see us in front of it through the screen.

Not so long ago, another worthy informed us that our data is not stored in the cloud. It would be foolish, he said. What would happen if it rained and details were washed away? An Indian stand-up doesn’t have to make up jokes. They are handed to him on a platter on a daily basis.

So our honourable minister thinks that Mark Zuckerberg is shivering in his boots. We will summon him, he said grandly, if Facebook data is leaked. So next time someone hacks into your account, dash off a letter to the minister and he will call up Zuckerberg and threaten him with yet another Indian hug. That should bring him in line.

A little less arrogance (“we know everything”) and a little more pragmatism (data can be breached) might help us deal with hackers better.

But the grown-ups who govern us, God bless them, seem to live in a charmed world where there is no original sin, no need for knowledge, and where delusions of adequacy abound. It may not be fair to take them to task for not keeping up, however. After all, these are the same men and women who believe that Ganesha’s head is proof of ancient plastic surgery and that the aircraft was invented in this country thousands of years ago.

Get off your donkeys and smell the coffee, you want to say.

Data is the new oil, quotes the father of Aadhaar, Nandan Nilekeni. How long before one of our literal-minded grown-ups pours data into his car and hopes it will drive him to work?