Narayan Prasad Ghimire, KATHMANDU:- Like most of the countries around the globe, Nepal too has been suffering worst in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is largely responded with a lockdown as no other measure as effective as it is to stay away from the deadly virus. Health crisis at first but pervasive to all, it has limited millions of people in home quarantines.
With the prolonged stay-at-home order, people of diverse professions have resorted to alternative methods to keep communications intact among relatives, friends and colleagues. More than to communicate, they have joined the bandwagon of digital world nurturing the habit of work from home, study from home.
The work from home and study from home have been facilitated with internet. Creation of several Messenger groups, dozens of zoom meetings, frequent updates on social networking sites have been new normal to us. The lockdown is beneficial- to stay safe from pandemic and to get accustomed with IT and explore the digital space. In this sense, the lockdown has been used as an opportunity.
However, as we are spending more time on digital devices, isn’t it time to mull on the pertinent questions: How safe are we? How secure is our digital home? How robust and secure our system and websites are? How can we balance between digital safety and internet freedom? At a time when the ambition of digital Nepal has been forwarded by the government, such questions obviously bear significant value.
Researchers and experts on cyber security caution that every internet user must be additional alert in times of crisis because cybercrimes occur thousand times more than the normal time. Therefore, investment on digital infrastructure and cyber security needs to be augmented.
In this connection, an international expert on cyber security, Dr Ramhari Subedi, observes, “The phone, laptop and desktop are our digital homes. As our physical homes, the digital homes must be equally safe and secure to protect our property. That is our communication and data- the property.”
During a recent discussion relating to the internet freedom and cyber security, Dr Subedi, who is the Professor at East Cost Poly-Technical University (ECPI) in Virginia of the US, expressed worry over Nepalis’ recklessness on digital safety. Making aware about the growing cybercrimes, Dr Subedi shared, “Seventy percent Nepali internet users use default ID in routers!”
Professor Subedi, who did his PhD with a focus on cyber security in the developing countries and provided training to many Nepali bureaucrats, politicians and security persons over the times, wondered why Nepal ignored investment in digital infrastructures and cyber security. He suggested that Nepal established an independent department of cyber security. “If Nepal gave priority to retaining IT graduates, the country could not only make huge income but also expedite development activities,” he added.
He expressed worry over so little computer system and application put in place to keep the government websites safe in Nepal.
The expert further suggested everyone to change password every two to three months, to regularly update the system, not to use pirated version of software, to prod government to invest more in cyber security.
On the occasion, former Vice-Chair of CAN Federation, Sunaina Ghimire Pande informed that the cybercrimes were growing during the lockdown in Nepal. Majority of the victims of cybercrimes in Nepal are women. Most of these crimes are human related. She reminded that when the system of Foodmandu, a food delivery outlet, was hacked some months back, the information of some 50,000 customers was leaked. It also resulted in harassment to some people, Ghimire added.
She expressed concern why the government budget failed to allocate funds on cyber security. The government is suggested to introduce cyber security policy and make information security audit mandatory in every public office.
Advocate Santosh Sigdel, however, said while ensuring digital safety and curbing cybercrimes, internet freedom should not be compromised. Internet freedom are human rights enjoyed via the internet. According to him, Nepal is in need of the laws that discourage and prevent cybercrimes. Arresting citizens only after a crime is not enough to create healthy digital atmosphere.
The Zoom discussion was coordinated by Karnali Foundation.
As the experts suggest, it is high time for Nepal to take concrete initiatives to ensure safe digital atmosphere and realize the ambition of digital Nepal. RSS
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