The government meets two objectives by pushing a made-in-India electronics policy: create a market for indigenous electronics products and safeguard the country from cyber attacks.
The Centre will soon come up with a notification, which will make it mandatory for all government departments to procure a part of their information and technology (IT) requirements such as desktops, laptops, printers, etc, from domestic companies that manufacture the product locally.
While the drive will help the domestic sector, it will also help the government ensure there are no cyber attacks from malware loaded on devices manufactured abroad.
"We are in the process of coming up with notifications for procurement of IT products, under which preference would be given to manufactured-in-India electronic products for all government procurements and procurement by government licensees," said a senior government official.
Under the new guidelines, government agencies will have to procure not less than 30 per cent of their IT requirements from the domestic manufacturers. For example, if 100,000 laptops are to be procured for a government project, then the government will have to buy at least 30,000 laptops from domestic manufacturers or foreign companies manufacturing the product in India. This is going to create a huge opportunity for domestic players, as well as foreign players manufacturing in India. In its Gujarat election manifesto, the Congress party has promised free laptops to students in the state.
If implemented, this would be a few hundreds of thousands of laptops. The Uttar Pradesh government has already announced that it will procure around 1.5 million laptops to give away to students.
Besides giving impetus to the domestic hardware manufacturing sector, the new guidelines will address strategic and security concerns of the government.
"Most electronics items are being imported. This creates a huge security hazard, especially for the critical sector. The imported products may have chips loaded with malware, which can siphon off critical information," said a government official.
Earlier this year, the government had said it would provide preference to domestically manufactured telecom products, especially to those with security implications. The new rule is a part of the national electronics manufacturing policy that came into effect from October this year. Under this rule, all the ministries will have to notify what percent of their hardware needs they are procuring from domestic players.
"With increasing of electronics devices and IT applications in various sectors, the critical applications are vulnerable to cyber attacks. As use of electronics and IT becomes pervasive, the ability to use these devices or applications to disrupt normal human life and threaten life and property by an inimical interest has become increasingly common," a government notification proposing the policy said.
It further added that India has suffered attacks on its critical infrastructure from agencies opposed to India. "A malicious hardware can be triggered to launch an attack. The situation is further compounded because the technology has yet to develop which can definitively detect such malicious hardware."