IBM’s Harriet Green on data security


The data of Indian citizens and businesses can be stored safely even outside the country, and impeding the two-way flow of data might impact the competitive positioning of the IT services industry, says Harriet Green, chairman and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific.

In an interview with Fortune India, Green and Karan Bajwa, managing director of IBM India–the regional arm of the $80-billion global technology giant, stated that even if it became mandatory for companies to store data from India consumers or companies within the country, it was equipped to do so at its data centre in Chennai.

They also reaffirmed that IBM–which completes 25 years in the country this year after re-entering the Indian market in 1992, will continue to invest in India. The company wants to deepen its market in the country where it sells technology services centred around cloud computing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence to enterprises. India is among the 14 countries that comprise the Asia Pacific region for IBM.

Edited excerpts:

There has been a lot of discussion and debate around the possibility and feasibility of it becoming mandatory for data to be stored locally in India to prevent misuse. What is IBM’s position on this?

Harriet Green: The first thing to consider here is the citizens’ responsibility with what they do around their personal data. It is important that each individual understands that there are entire industries out there that sell, manipulate and use their data.

Then there is the enterprises’ responsibility on how they handle clients’ data. IBM’s position on this has always been that our clients’ data is their data. We don’t manipulate, sell or distort it. If they want us to help them with insights garnered from this data, then it has to be requested for in a very specific and formal way.

India generates around $170 billion of revenues, a little under 10% of its GDP, from its vibrant technology industry, which is a hub for IT services, outsourcing and insourcing. What we told the government at the India Data Summit that we held in New Delhi yesterday (September 11, 2018) was that the question is does India want to continue to play that kind of a role in the global IT industry. We totally share the need for data security and are prepared to help with our cyber resiliency capabilities, but we believe it is possible for India to continue to have a pragmatic, light-touch view that you can secure data even when it is moving around and stored in different hubs.

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