At the nerve center of the nation

By : |July 14, 2005 0



He is a son of the soil-a forward thinking, futuristic person with a grand vision. Though behind the scenes, he is a man who matters to us all-he is the CIO of the Indian Army. His men were among the first in getting the communication lines up after the Tsunami struck. He was also there to make sure that even in the midst of flying bullets and shells, information communications strengthened Operation Vijay in Kargil-to lead us to a win.

Lieutenant General Davinder Kumar walks inside the room and you can feel his persona charging up the atmosphere. His speech is lucid and style of work, impeccable. General Kumar is the Signal Officer-in-Chief and Senior Colonel Commandant of The Corps of Signals, which is the ICT arm of the Indian Army. He manages the tactical Command, control, communication and intelligence requirements of the Indian Army, and is also responsible for conceptualizing, planning and implementing its information technology roadmap.

The Indian Army, with 1.3 mn people, is the second largest in the world. Of these, the strength of the Signals is 100,000, all dexterously involved in making sure that communication never fails. In the General’s own words, “My business as the Signal Officer-in-Chief is to give the Defence Forces a very modern, survivable and robust communication system anywhere to anywhere. We have 70 feet of snow in Jammu and Kashmir, all civil communications are out, but our systems are right up there working 24X7.”

With over 40 years in the army, there is not a single technology project which he has not been involved with. A specialist in Networking Design and Implementation, the General has conceptualized and implemented various communication and related projects.

Handshakes

The Corps of Signals was in the news last month for their seminar on Information Assurance and Risk Management, which was organized jointly by the Indian Army and CII, and aimed at providing a platform for the best minds to converge on the subject. According to the General, “The idea behind the seminar was to be able to synergize the national requirements of Defence with the communication industry and organize a more intimate interaction between the private sector, PSUs, academia, Defence Research and Development organization, and ourselves.”

The army outsources a substantial amount of development work. This may be for projects like general enterprise network, office applications and custom built applications. Communication equipment comes from reliable vendors after a thorough specification mapping.
The classified work is all done in-house. Officers who form the nucleus of the Information System Directorate, which is the Army’s software development agency, specialize in IT, Communications, Electronic Warfare, Cyber Security and Signal intelligence.

Networked Warfare

According to General Kumar, “The army networks are spread all over the country. Operating at the highest layer, at the national level, are the strategic backbone networks. The backbone networks, during times like these, of No War-No Peace, are used to inter connect all important places in the country. At the next level are the access networks, which bring services to the user. At places where there are no networks, such as remote far flung areas like deserts and mountains, the army keeps on extending these networks as they move, so that everybody is connected. These are called the tactical networks.”

The Corps is moving in step with the times and is exploiting state-of-the-art technologies like GSM, CDMA, mobile trunked Radio, mobile satellite systems and Optical fibers.

The corridors of the Army Headquarters are these days abuzz with talks and action on Network Centric Warfare (NCW), which will change the way battles are fought in the future. And this is also a project very close to General Kumar’s heart. He explains, “The battlefield today is very transparent, you have intelligent surveillance equipment, instruments like satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles that can see the battle space. With NCW, we have sensors providing tremendous amount of information from the battlefield coming in simultaneously from all directions. This is a huge amount of information, which needs powerful computing devices to process and convert it into intelligence. The fact is that the nation with better networks will probably be the winner in the next war.”

The challenge that the General faces today is of drawing up an Army doctrine to do the Training and HR Development to be able to operate on such systems. The infrastructure will be in place soon and the Indian Army should be able to transform to being network centric.

Impressive Initiatives

The General is indeed proud of his Signalmen and women who work in areas where commoners fear to tread. The Corps of Signals holds 4 world records.

While a part of the Signals is high up braving the rough, another team of the Corps of Signals stays closer to the common people, through Operation Sadbhavana, in which they are setting up computer schools, IT institutions and IT kiosks-doing their bit in spreading IT education to the border areas, both in the northeast and in J&K. There are 100 IT kiosks in J&K alone.

The IT initiatives of the army are impressive. The army technology board, which is under the training command, supports innovation, acting as a small venture capitalist. Information Battle Labs have been created to simulate a network and make it open to the public for attempting network attacks, so that flaws can be exposed. Useful information is gathered from such attacks and incorporated in existing networks to make them more secure. The Army also has to its credit one of the biggest intranets in the country. And all these deployment are not even costing the national exchequer a fortune.

“While the capabilities keep going up, the costs keep coming down due to competition, says General Kumar.
With the Corps of Signals, looks like the money is going to the right place-in keeping our borders safe. As General Kumar says, “When it comes to a communication enabled army, we are one of the best in the world.”

Source:Dataquest

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