Panic spikes as PM's IT guru Ali has access to people's private data

Published On: April 4, 2020 08:10 AM NPT By: Sunil Sapkota

ExtensoData, F1Soft's subsidiary, is a data company

KATHMANDU, April 4: ExtensoData, the prime minister's IT consultant Asgar Ali's data company, has many senior government officials worried over 'possible misuse of government data'. ExtensoData, established in 2018, is one of many subsidiaries of F1Soft International, where Ali is vice president. It has been previously reported in media that Ali has been accessing people's vital data since long back. The recent incident of his alleged involvement in the unauthorized removal of a news story from has raised eyebrows.

“ExtensoData has solutions that analyze existing business data to reveal patterns, trends and prospects that are extremely valuable for making decisions, mitigating risks, meeting challenges and planning ahead,” states the data company's website.

According to a technical official at the Prime Minister's Office, Ali has access to all sensitive data, and it is a matter of deep concern. "We are not sure whether data has already been misused," the official said, requesting anonymity.

Citizens' data from different departments including immigration, labor, foreign employment and from the Home Ministry has been parked at the IT section of the PMO for a 'Citizen App Test'. According to some officials, such data was meant to be used at the National Information Technology Center. "But under pressure from Ali, the data were transferred to the PMO," the source said.

Talking to Republica, Manish Bhattarai, under-secretary at the technical department at PMO, stated that work is underway on the development of the citizen app at the National Information Technology Center. "We have been facilitating this, and it needs to be connected to other agencies as well. But we have yet to receive a complete data set," he said.

Some government officials say it was due to pressure from Asgar Ali that his relatives Rahim Ali and Aslam Ali were appointed consultants for the development of the citizen app.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Pokharel, information officer at the Information Technology Center, admitted that the duo have indeed been appointed as consultants. However, he declined to speak any further about this. "App is under development, and I have least knowledge over other things," he said.

It is feared that Ali, who is said to have close connections with the PM's chief advisor, Bishnu Rimal, has access to all secret information and data collected by the Election Commission, the Tax Department and Nepal Telecom, among other entities.

Government officials, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, allege that ever since Ali's appointment, his sole interest has been in collecting sensitive government data.

Meanwhile, Manish Pokharel, a professor at Kathmandu University, warned that the lack of due protection for national data could be dangerous. Since today's world is a world of data, companies whose aim is to profit through data transactions are looking to access sensitive data.

"It may not look like a big thing. But it is," he said. "The business of data is thriving globally. Amid such a scenario, if a private company or person has access to our sensitive data, it could be dangerous," Pokharel added.

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