State's IT system in danger due to zero government data center budget, non-renewal of software license

Kathmandu. Due to the extreme negligence of the government, the information technology system of the state is found to be at high risk. The entire information technology system of the government has fallen into crisis when the National Information Technology Center, which is in charge of running the government's Integrated Data Center (GIDC) and the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), which is a backup, has been put in a zero budget position.

Pradeep Paudel, the executive director of the center, said that no budget has been received in the current financial year for the operation of the office and there is no current expenditure after November, even for the salaries of the employees. According to him, the employees of the center have not even received their monthly salary. Not only this, the contract period of about four dozen employees has ended. He said that although the contract has been recommended to the Cabinet for renewal, it has not been approved.

“We don't have any expenses even for the purchase of common goods like tea, stationery, water,” says Paudel, executive director of the center. Due to lack of budget, the center has not been able to renew the licenses of essential systems and software in the data center.

According to the center, the licenses of some software and systems in the data center have expired due to non-renewal. It is said that some of the remaining licenses are about to expire.

GIDC and DRC are in a high risk situation as data center firewalls, arbors and licenses cannot be renewed due to lack of budget. Due to non-payment and renewal of bills, OEM support (technical support from the original manufacturer of information technology equipment) is not being received.

GIDC, which is going through a crisis, had to face the DIDUS cyber attack only a few weeks ago. The center said that since the license was not renewed and OEM support could not be obtained, the government website had to be manually blocked one by one to make the government website operational.

“If we had OEM support, if there was any kind of problem with the data center and the equipment here, the company's technicians could have solved it immediately,” said Paudel, the executive director of the center, “but if that was not possible, we had to block IPs one by one to get the websites operational and it took hours to restore the service. .”

By doing this, it seems that IPs other than cyber attackers may also be blocked. Attempts are being made to operate Genten in a government data center manner. In such a situation, the entire information technology system of the government can be stopped at any time and there is a risk of incurring unimaginable losses.

Due to the non-disbursement of the capital budget, the regular expenses under the center and other development programs have also been stalled. In the last financial year, the construction of internet exchange and data center was started at Khumaltar in Lalitpur. The data center under construction in Kohalpur was 70 percent complete. Land acquisition work was progressing in Dharan and Butwal. All these projects have been completely stopped since July due to lack of budget.

In addition to this, the center has also been given the responsibility of operating the citizen app, which has been launched with the aim of providing all government facilities through a single app. But the work of new service integration has been affected due to lack of budget.

According to the Centre, a bill of 150 million rupees has to be paid under the heading of development, construction and capital expenditure. But Poudel said that there was not even a single rupee in the account to cut a check for such payment.

While the DNS server of all government agencies of Nepal is in GIDC. 1704 government websites are hosted in the data center where 3,100 government agencies' DNS is registered.

Apart from this, the center has been providing about 20,000 government e-mails, internet services for 60 government agencies within Singha Durbar, server colocation for 70 government agencies, virtualization and cloud services for 1,200 government agencies.

When there is a problem in GIDC, the recommendations to be taken from the ward office, the sensitive work from the ministry and the central level can be stopped.

ONM limiting the Center as a branch of the Department

In order to make the center more powerful, the organization itself has been abolished and taken under the information technology department. Six months after the beginning of the financial year, the organization structure has been approved by abolishing the center and merging it into departments. In which the modality of conducting GIDC through civil and permanent employees has been adopted.

According to the analysis of Manohar Kumar Bhattarai, Vice Chairman of the then Information Technology High Level Commission, the problem will not be solved if GIDC is brought under the department. The government announced that the National Information Technology Center will be abolished and merged into the Department of Information Technology through the budget of the current fiscal year 2080/81. Information technology Bhattarai argues that the government's move to abolish the agency that should be made more powerful is not appropriate when the importance and use of information technology is increasing.

“This does not mean that the Information Technology Center and GIDC were operating well before or that it would have been appropriate to keep them as they are,” he said, “but I do not think that the existing problems will be solved by abolishing the organization and merging it with the Information Technology Department.” Instead, it would have been appropriate to improve the previous structure.”

The government has not been able to clearly disclose what are the existing problems in the matter of canceling the center and merging with the department, and what is the basis for the department to be resolved. Bhattarai sees the risk that even bigger problems may arise if information technology systems, including data centers, are transferred to the department under the status quo.

Now, information technology has become a means of delivering most of the government services. Even when the government dreams of transformation, it emphasizes on digital service delivery.

“Government should understand the importance of GIDC in the context of service delivery being digitized, it should not play around with the issue of managing such sensitive infrastructure,” he says, “it should be taken forward in a strong manner.” But now it seems that there is no proper homework on how to manage GIDC.”

Another information technology expert, who did not want to be named, commented that the bureaucracy is trying to capture the specialized agency that should be operated by bringing in skilled technicians from open competition. He further said, “The approach of trying to run purely technical institutions like Nepal Telecommunication Authority, Electricity Authority, Nepal Telecom by civil servants is wrong.”

According to him, it would have been appropriate to develop the center operating in the development committee model rather in the modality of authority or commission.

Bhattarai, an information technology expert, says that what kind of manpower comes to such a sensitive and important body is of great significance. “Cloud, data center, innovation, etc. require the same kind of skilled and competitive manpower from the market,” he says. Bhattarai believes that the government, which should focus on service delivery, cannot manage technology at the same time.

“Instead of correcting some bad decisions, abolishing the institution and merging it with another does not bring results. Individuals and organizations are different,” he says. “Instead of keeping their own people, the leaders could have provided attractive service facilities through restructuring and kept competitive experts in the industry. The government needs a technology integration organization that can compete with the private sector, and only then can the dream of transformation come true.”

According to Bhattarai, the security of the data center should be the most sensitive, and it is unfortunate that the system and support license expires due to lack of budget. “What else could be serious negligence like putting the sensitive data of the state and people at risk, leading to data breach, hacking?,” he said.

Information technology and data center expert Hemant Baral says that since GIDC is a critical and sensitive place, there is a danger of a major accident if the license of the system and software is not renewed.

Last updated: Jan 18, 2080 17:47

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Rabins Sharma Lamichhane

Rabins Sharma Lamichhane is senior ICT professional who talks about #it, #cloud, #servers, #software, and #innovation. Rabins is also the first initiator of Digital Nepal. Facebook: rabinsxp Instagram: rabinsxp

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