NIC 1, Google 0

DQW Bureau
New Update

There was a news recently that responding to data security concerns raised over its arrangement with Google for online voter facilitation, the Election Commission called off its negotiations with the US-based internet giant. The commission has now decided to fall back on its good old partner, the government-controlled National Informatics Centre, to help voters access their electoral information.


The Commission decided to abandon its negotiations with the American company over three basic issues: the risk to security of voters' database; entering into a tie-up with a partner with largely commercial interests, even though Google had offered to fund the voter facilitation exercise from its corporate social responsibility budget; and concerns over control that the foreign partner would wield over vital data relating to the Indian voter.

I would on principle agree with the first and third concerns, though the second I feel still smacks of a socialist-state government monopoly mindset. In these days of global economy, there can virtually be no ground or such a concern and it takes us back to the ‘dark' pre-liberalization days. The principle of public-private partnerships, much touted by the government in every forum, otherwise would not stand scrutiny at all. Any private participation would look at protecting their commercial interests, but that should not deter in a quality delivery.

However, the security concerns I feel are much genuine. Especially in the light of American attitude in the Devyani Khobargande fracas and the knowledge that American government easily twists American companies (strangely in the name of national interest). In the name of our national interest, therefore I would be sceptical of handing over such sensitive data to Google.


There have been genuine concerns raised by several cyber experts as well as leading political parties. The EC is said to have questioned Google representatives on whether the Indian voter database could be diverted to a third party, particularly so after their six-month contract for voter information look-up ended; who would administer the data; and whether Indian laws would apply in the event of a dispute, as Google often claimed to be governed by US laws alone.

The EC now agrees that it is too much of a risk to allow a US-based private Internet giant full access to the Indian voters' database. Though the NIC cannot match Google's capabilities by any measure, the advantages of engaging the latter appear to far outweigh the risks involved. Hence, the commission has decided not to pursue the arrangement with Google any further.

While I feel the EC made the right decision in the current scenario, my problem is why cannot the NIC come close (if not completely altogether) to match Google's search engine capabilities. Especially since we tom-tom so much about India's IT prowess. A more professional and technologically savvy NIC would not just be beneficial for such projects, they can then compete commercially in the open market as an economically viable entity.

While the government sentiments and actions were right for once here, we need to appreciate the need to improve NIC in our own backyard. Write to me on hat you feel about this.