In the digital age, cybersecurity has become a critical concern for nations worldwide. Recently, the government of Nepal announced plans to establish a new cyber unit and dissolve the existing body, a move that has drawn criticism from experts in the field. This article delves into the details of the government's decision, the concerns raised by experts, and the broader implications for cybersecurity in Nepal.
The New Budget's Approach to Cybersecurity
Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, in the government's annual budget announcement, stated that a National Cyber Security Centre would be established to address the cybersecurity needs of the 21st century. The Centre is envisioned as an authorized body for research and development on cybersecurity, its promotion, and digital forensic research. The government also plans to audit the cybersecurity of the electronic systems of the Government of Nepal.
However, the government also announced plans to dissolve the National Information Technology Centre (NITC), which has been working to secure government data for the past two decades. This decision is part of a broader plan to eliminate 20 unnecessary agencies to cut costs.
Cybersecurity experts have criticized the government's approach, arguing that it lacks a clear vision and fails to strengthen existing units like the cyber bureau of Nepal Police. They contend that the need of the hour is an independent entity that can formulate laws and carry out counseling and surveillance works independently.
The decision to dissolve the NITC has also drawn criticism. Experts argue that the government is dissolving an authentic government data center without proper homework. They point out that significant resources have been invested in developing the NITC as an institution, and its dissolution could lead to a loss of expertise and institutional knowledge.
The Cybersecurity Landscape in Nepal
Cybersecurity is a growing concern in Nepal, with the number of cyber-related complaints registered with the cyber bureau rising steadily. The bureau is currently understaffed and struggling to handle the increasing workload. The bureau's data for the eight months till last April showed that IT-related financial frauds were the most common cybercrimes in the country, followed by revenge porn and fake profiles on social media.
The Way Forward
Experts argue that the government needs to focus on strengthening existing institutions and formulating effective cybersecurity laws. They also stress the importance of consulting with experts before making policy decisions. The formation of a high-level panel to draft a cybersecurity policy is a step in the right direction, but it is yet to come into being.
The government's approach to tackling cybercrimes in the new budget has sparked a significant debate. While the establishment of a National Cyber Security Centre could potentially enhance Nepal's cybersecurity capabilities, experts argue that the government needs to focus on strengthening existing institutions and formulating effective laws. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it is crucial for the government to adopt a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to cybersecurity.