By Aparmita Das | SHILLONG:
In an era where connectivity and digitalisation have become integral to our daily lives, the significance of strong cybersecurity measures cannot be overlooked. Against this backdrop, a panel of esteemed experts from Germany and India came together at North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, on May 29. This insightful panel discussion, titled “Cybersecurity in Comparative Indian and German Contexts,” provided a platform for exchanging knowledge, experiences, and best practices in combating cybercrimes.
The event gathered renowned professionals such as Dr Adrian Haack, the Resident Representative to India of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, who brought his extensive experience in political science and expertise in economic and energy policy to the table.
Introducing the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung foundation, Dr Haack explained the significance of its name, honouring Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of Germany after World War II. Dr Haack mentioned that the foundation has a global presence with over 100 offices worldwide. He emphasised that in countries where the foundation operates, their aim is to foster connections and unity among people, often through trips involving parliamentarians or academicians. He described the foundation as less of a think tank and more of an “action tank.”
When discussing cybersecurity and drawing a comparison between the two countries, Dr Haack highlighted that there is no definitive “right” or “wrong” approach to digitalisation. Instead, he said that different countries can learn from one another. In this context, he praised India as a hub of digitalisation, where significant advancements are taking place. He shared a valuable quote in German with the audience, which encapsulated the rise of digitalisation in both countries. He said, “The enemy of the better is not bad but good.”
Among other panellists were Patricia Mukhim, a veteran journalist, Prof Bhagirath Panda, an economist and Director of the North-East India Regional Centre of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (NERC-ICSSR), Prof Roel Hangsing, an expert in cyber informatics and Professor of Information Sciences at NEHU, and Prof Iftekar Hussain, Dean of the School of Technology and an eminent IT professor specialising in cybersecurity. The last speaker was Florian Müller MP, a member of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German parliament, whose expertise encompasses digitalisation, economic cooperation, and international affairs.
Florian Müller MP, engaging in a conversation with The Meghalayan, shared his initial discussion with Dr Haack about his desire to visit India, with a specific emphasis on exploring a state on the rise rather than the capital. As the conversation unfolded, Müller expressed his satisfaction with the mutual decision to choose Meghalaya as their destination, remarking, “Now that I’m here, I can confidently say we made the right decision.” His enthusiasm grew as he described the people he encountered, noting their intelligence and captivating nature. Additionally, Müller conveyed his heartfelt appreciation for the warm and gracious welcome he received. This positive experience came as a fitting continuation after the enlightening panel discussion and a delightful lunch, which set the room for his conversation with the newspaper.
Müller shared his insights on various cybersecurity challenges and potential collaborations between the two countries. Müller said, “India has extensive experience in cybersecurity. Germany perceives Indian people as IT experts. In contrast, Germany lacks a sufficient number of IT experts. Therefore, intensifying cooperation with India would benefit us by tapping into India’s expertise in the IT sector. Additionally, we have the opportunity to contribute by supporting education and collaborating on cybersecurity. Both India and Germany are democracies, with India being the largest democracy globally. Thus, we should work closely together to enhance the safety of cyberspace.”
Regarding the steps that the government and private sectors should take to enhance the security of critical sectors such as medicine, transportation, and power, with a highlight on the recent cyberattacks and the Pegasus spyware incident, Müller acknowledged the need for greater security in certain sectors and stressed that the public sector has the responsibility to safeguard personal data, especially in areas like healthcare and journalism where sensitive information is involved. He emphasised that individuals in prominent positions require protection, and politicians and administrations must address this issue.
The conversation then shifted to the topic of cyberbullying and the challenge of addressing it effectively. Müller highlighted the importance of personal responsibility and education, stating, “It begins with ourselves and the education system. Whether it is recognising deep fakes or suspicious videos, individuals should always question if they are being manipulated. This awareness should be instilled early on in schools and universities to equip people with the necessary skills. Additionally, social media networks have a role to play by using algorithms to identify and warn against fake news and potential cyber-attacks.”
Regarding the introduction of social media awareness in Germany’s education system, as well as the issue of phone addiction, Müller stressed the responsibility of parents in guiding their children. He shared a personal anecdote about his son and emphasised that while digital infrastructure is beneficial, it is essential to be mindful of the dangers of addiction. Awareness programmes typically begin in secondary school, around the age of ten or eleven, which Müller considers the earliest suitable moment.
According to Müller, as a politician, it is crucial to maintain an active presence on social media, especially considering the younger generation’s inclination towards non-traditional news sources. He said that this engagement fosters transparency in showcasing politicians’ actions. However, Müller acknowledged the importance of journalists in providing critical questioning and serving as a check on politicians’ viewpoints. Consequently, his country relies on journalists to fulfill this crucial role. He also stressed that politicians should strive to build bridges with countries and cultures that share similar values, and he sees India and Germany as having such shared interests.