For the first time, the government consulted with industry data storage providers to understand the potential need for government-led ‘cloud economic zones’ — geographical areas identified for the creation of data storage centres, according to ministry and industry sources.
“Increasingly all over the world, there is a tendency to keep sensitive data locally and to a certain extent, all data,” an IT ministry official exclusively told The Indian Express. “Data is recognised as a valuable resource. If that tendency is there, then certainly India will be one of the top generators of data. If that need to put it in the country comes, do we have the place to keep the data?”
Last week, the IT Ministry consulted representatives from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon about whether such government action is needed to help set up data centres in India and if so, what the design and structure of the zones could look like. Some industry representatives expressed security concerns with placing sensitive data in restricted zones, allowing for single attacks to threaten the high-risk areas.
Pending data protection legislation mandates a copy of all sensitive data to be stored in India and all critical data to only be stored in India. A Reserve Bank of India directive last year mandated all payments data to be stored in the country. A draft e-commerce policy has also recommended strict data localisation.
The IT ministry official said that if data localisation policies increasingly come, the ministry may need to act proactively. “We need huge capacities. We cannot be taken aback.”
The government is currently under increasing pressure from the US government and foreign industry players not to restrict data storage. At the G20 summit in Osaka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not sign onto a declaration of “data free flow with trust” proposed by Japan and heavily championed by the US. India has also refused to join negotiations about e-commerce at the World Trade Organization.
The official said that electricity and energy concerns did not come up heavily in the meeting, adding the solar and wind energy can help supply the centres. The ministry will seek further consultation from industry, the Home Ministry, and National Cyber Security Center.
“We were picking each other’s brains,” the official stated. “Cloud Economic Zones are definitely on the agenda. But we must first determine the needs of the private sector. We may not need government zones if supply and demand provides it.”
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