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Monsoon Cloud
[March 23, 2017]

Monsoon Cloud

By Special Guest
Raffaele Bonanno , Regulatory Engineer, Access Partnership

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) isn't a natural fit for the spotlight, but that hasn't kept controversy away over the past few years. India's booming tech sector has required the regulator to step up and make calls on contentious topics like infrastructure, net neutrality, competition, and, as of last June, publish a consultation paper on cloud computing. Despite small improvements, India still lags behind its neighbors in deploying cloud, ranking 12 out of 14 in the 2016 Asian Cloud Readiness Index; so, there's a clear need for good recommendations and a clear, unified framework. Can TRAI sidestep controversy this time and pull India ahead?

The benefits of cloud are well known, but they bear repeating. Huge savings in efficiency, reduced costs, and platforms for transformative technologies like IoT or smart cities are all easily adopted through cloud technologies. India in particular is fertile ground; India has the third highest number of start-ups in the world, and adding small businesses into the mix sees the number easily run into the millions. Cloud's easy scalability means it's perfectly suited to boosting the smallest as much as the largest, and both sizes can take advantage of the country's 2.75 million (and growing) developers, the second-highest in the world.

TRAI's task is to connect the dots with a unified, clear regulatory framework and targeted government intervention. India may be crying out for cloud deployment - an IDC survey in 2014 found a huge willingness to adopt it - but building the infrastructure, capabilities, strategies and investments that shape the deployment of cloud services is a challenge. At Access Partnership, we've seen several consultations struggle with interoperability, QoS parameters, cross-border matters, security and data localization requirements.

From what we have seen so far, TRAI shows every sign that it will give cloud a thorough and careful evaluation. Both TRAI and the Indian government display an understanding of the big picture. Initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission, aiming to encourage sustainable urban development, and the GI Cloud, a cloud computing initiative of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to speed up delivery of e-services, along with the ambitious Digital India program, are the kind of targeted interventions that support development. The consultation shows a desire to give companies the secure framework they need to make investment decisions, and recognizes that a favourable tax structure is a must to encourage the take-up of cloud services, following existing incentives for transport, power and electronics.

Of course, they shouldn't get cocky. Even with India's fertile ground for technology innovation and positive efforts from the authorities, only between 10 percent and 15 percent of large Indian businesses use cloud computing. Untangling the complex Web of government procurement will be difficult, as will overcoming perennial infrastructure issues that can limit cloud services to the most basic implementation in many areas, such as the lack of guaranteed electricity supplies.

Governmental instincts on security also threaten mass adoption; even this consultation reflects the Department of Telecommunications' push for data localization and the monitoring of domestic Internet traffic. Security concerns can only have been heightened by recent large-scale cyberattacks releasing confidential government data.

But with the consultation tasking stakeholders with providing input on how cloud service providers and end users alike can support security concerns, the outlook is good. Above all, events indicate India is willing to find a compromise between over and under regulation, between public and private. The regulator, together with the government, is aware that every cloud may yet deliver a silver lining. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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