Aadhaar (UID- Unique Identification Project)

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Rage, Jun 29, 2009.

  1. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    UID marks beginning of Rs 40,000-cr e-gov plans

    29 Jun 2009, 0823 hrs IST, Pankaj Mishra & Deepshikha Monga, ET Bureau

    [​IMG]


    BANGALORE/NEW DELHI: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UID), to be headed by Infosys cofounder Nandan Nilekani, is the first in a series of such transformation projects being evaluated by India, as the government plans to spend up to Rs 40,000 crore over next few years on Information Technology (IT).

    A national database for maintaining health records for patients, IT-led modernisation of India Post, a massive telemedicine project and a sophisticated technology platform for automating and integrating municipal councils across the country are among some areas where the government has already started pilot projects.

    “The government has completed a number of pilots and the focus is now on scaling these up,” Nasscom vice-president Raju Bhatnagar said.

    With healthcare being an important area, the government is looking at automation of hospitals to maintain health records of citizens , for distribution of medicines to crack down on spurious drugs and to monitor an epidemic situation. “UK spent billions on rolling out its National Health Services (NHS) project, which is still not a perfect example because of inefficiencies. India will need to develop its own model in a very transparent fashion and link it with a telemedicine application ,” said an independent consultant currently advising some government departments on these projects. He requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media about these projects.

    The telemedicine project, which will help offer medical services and advise to thousands of patients in remote parts of the country could cost almost Rs 5,000 crore depending upon the scope, a senior government official familiar with the project told ET on conditions of anonymity. Some pilot telemedicine projects have already been successful in the North East.

    The government is also working on automating the public distribution system that provides food items at reasonable prices to poor households.


    UID marks beginning of Rs 40,000-cr e-gov plans- Software-Infotech-The Economic Times
     
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  3. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Indian National ID Project

    Guys, I'm starting this thread to document and discuss articles, ideas and mission pertaining to recently started National ID project, which I think is one of the most important aspect which might have implications to the Indian internal security in the midst of immigration happening from across the borders. Apart from this, it might also be helpful in tracking the people across the country and benefit the relevant people with budget allocated by govt. for any given purpose, be it NREGA, Education Scholarships, Pension, Health care, Insurance etc. So, please post all related articles and ideas here.

    Thanks
    DD
     
  5. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Citizen IDs to cost Rs 1.5 lakh crore

    Citizen IDs to cost Rs 1.5 lakh crore

    26 Jun 2009, 0156 hrs IST, TNN


    With the central government announcing a panel to implement the programme of giving identity cards to all citizens of the country, it appears that this much hyped scheme is finally getting some traction. It is estimated that this gigantic and complex exercise will involve an expenditure of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

    It will put India in the club of about 56 countries around the world, which have some form of national identity cards. These include most of continental Europe (not UK), China, Brazil, Japan, Iran, Israel and Indonesia.

    The idea itself is not new, but in the past it had not received a clear centralized push. As a result, several pretenders emerged and vied with each other, creating confusion typical of India. There is the PAN card created by the tax department but now used for diverse financial transactions. Then there is the photo ID card issued by the Election Commission, primarily meant for voting.

    Earlier, ration cards were the mainstay of identity proof, but lost their relevance as the ration system became restricted. Driving licenses are popularly used as ID but only a very small fraction of the country’s billion-plus citizens have them.

    In 2003, the government decided to launch a pilot project for providing the Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) to 31 lakh people in 12 states and one UT. This exercise was to give a taste of what is entailed in giving ID cards to citizens. The first card was delivered only in 2007 and it is still in progress.

    In January this year, the apex court got involved, suggesting to that nation identity cards should be made mandatory for all citizens. This contributed to energizing the languishing program.

    The first step in issuing ID cards is building a complete computerized record of all citizens above the age of 18. It needs to be computerized so that it is accessible and it can be updated constantly. The task is being done by the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the home ministry, because they have the requisite experience after all, the RGI carries out the census every decade. In fact, this database is going to be generated along with the next Census, slated for 2011. It will be called the National Population Register.

    The technical challenge is to create a tamper-proof smart card, which can function in Indian conditions. A sophisticated software called SCOSTA will reportedly be used for creating the cards. The cards would contain as many as 16 pieces of personal information.

    This information will be stored in micro-chips embedded in the card and it will be accessible only to authorized users, like police officials. Apart from carrying personal details like photo, age, address and fingerprints, the MNIC will contain a National Identity Number, which will be unique to the individual.

    The other challenge is to computerize the civil registration system across the country so that all births and deaths are entered into the population register.
     
  6. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Smart card for every Indian

    Smart card for every Indian


    The national ID project is a worthy one, but the onus remains on the government to perform, starting with implementing this card itself
    Nandan Nilekani’s cabinet rank appointment last week is beginning to draw attention to the national identification (ID) project he will head. The aim, to provide Indians with a multipurpose national identity card (MNIC), is worthy. Yet, it needs to be seen not as an elixir for all the nation’s troubles, but a better tool for the government to be answerable to citizens. The onus remains on the government to perform, starting with implementing this card itself.

    The greatest benefit of such technology is that it cuts down transaction costs. Today, if the state wishes to provide, say, a food subsidy to the very poorest, an army of bureaucrats stands in between. MNIC can act as a smart card that identifies the right beneficiaries of aid. This is, then, part of a larger movement towards e-governance, one that strikes at corruption and leakages.

    Such a card should be made compulsory. By quickening verification, it will help root out possible terrorists. But technology here is no substitute for political will. The problem of illegal immigration is a case in point.
    In 1983, India passed the Illegal Migrants Act to determine illegal immigrants in Assam. In 2005, the Supreme Court struck this down, because the Act only made identifying illegal immigrants more difficult. Even with newer technology, how will the government know whom to give its MNIC to across India, when it failed in just one state?

    Theoretically, a single MNIC can do away with the multiplicity of other IDs, reducing fraud. For instance, two-fifths of “below poverty line” (BPL) cards, a February piece in the Economic and Political Weekly argued, are with non-poor households.

    However, MNIC could become yet another card in the average citizen’s wallet. The Election Commission introduced voter IDs earlier this decade to obviate electoral fraud. Yet, today it allows voters to show other forms of IDs too—an implicit acknowledgement that voter IDs haven’t reached every voter. What’s to say this won’t happen to MNICs?

    There’s also a concern that MNIC’s centralized database will heighten abuses of privacy. That’s a possibility, but not one that undercuts MNIC’s rationale; it only means that this project has to come with the right legal safeguards. Nilekani himself has noted the influence of the US social security number for a national ID in India. Then, like the US, India too would need legislation to protect electronic data.

    MNIC can go a long way in helping both the public and private sector reach more citizens. But for that, Nilekani will have to address such concerns.
     
  7. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Nilekani to head multibillion opening for Indian IT cos

    Nilekani to head multibillion opening for Indian IT cos

    26 Jun 2009, 1229 hrs IST, TNN

    BANGALORE: A billion smart cards for a billion population. It throws up a multi-billion dollar business opportunity for domestic technology
    players. ( Watch )

    The eco-system required to support the citizen ID card programme, proposed by the Unique Identification Number Authority of India (UIDAI), is expected to be vast, comprising of data collectors /managers, delivery channels, chip designers, smart card manufacturers, application and software providers, system integrators, networking analysts and print companies.

    Some estimate it will create at least a 100,000 additional jobs in the country in the next three years. An ancillary industry will also come up around this ecosystem. The entire ID card project is estimated to be in the range of around Rs 1.5 lakh crore, with the first phase, which will cover ultra urban, urban, and semi-urban populations, offering a Rs 6,500 crore business opportunity.

    Companies like TCS and Infosys have confirmed that they will actively bid for the project. TCS has already been working with the government on projects like e-passport, Gujarat police and the defence ministry. “Since it is going to be an open bidding process, we will be bidding for it,” said a senior official at TCS.

    “The entire process including the bidding process, deal negotiations and business evaluation, are expected to be transparent. There will not be any conflict of interest for us and therefore we will participate in the bid,” said a senior official at Infosys. Some 27 large egovernance projects worth Rs 40,000 crore are currently in the pipeline.

    After having been badly hit by the global meltdown, many tech leaders have been urging the government to accelerate these projects to induce economic buoyancy and create fresh jobs. The UIDAI comes as a quick response to the industry’s call.

    Som Mittal, president of IT industry body Nasscom, was clearly delighted by the government’s move: “The project is a transformational project for the country as it will overlay many underlying projects, creating huge efficiencies for the country leading to enhanced governance and reduced costs.”
     
  8. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Identity challenge

    Identity challenge

    By giving a push to the national unique ID cards project with the appointment of Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani as the head of the authority, the UPA government has acted fast on an electoral promise it had made. There is wide agreement on the need for a biometric ID card system for all citizens.


    Though citizen identity cards have in the past been identified with authoritarian systems, there is realisation now that the complexities and challenges of the modern world necessitate them. But putting in place an ID card system is a Herculean task. Even some developed countries have dropped the project after launching it because of the logistical problems it poses. But the need to make the project a success is greater in countries like India where large diversities exist and and citizen documentation is poor.

    The choice of Nandan Nilekani, who is known not only for his technological and managerial expertise but for his social awareness and commitment, shows the government’s seriousness about the project. It is similar to the brief of Sam Pitroda who contributed greatly to the country’s telecom revolution in the last few decades. The advantages of the project are self-evident. The system has an important role in addressing national security challenges posed by terrorism and in dealing with the problem of illegal migration. Many of the social security and welfare schemes undertaken by the government can be implemented more effectively if the targeted beneficiaries are well identified. It can reduce corruption and inefficiency in the delivery of the schemes and save costs. It is also a great advantage to have a single identity proof in place of the multiplicity of proofs like passports, ration cards and PAN cards.

    But the technical and management problems are daunting in making the project a success in the country with a over a billion population. It may not be realistic to expect that it will be completed by 2011. In fact the 2011 census will serve as the data base and the project can really take off only after that. It should also be remembered that it is not a project that gets completed by a deadline but is a continuous process that will need constant updating. The official support machinery is not the most efficient and there are many levels of authorities from the Central to the ward level which are to be involved in the effort. Nilekani will have to draw upon all the resources of his skill and expertise to make the project a success.
     
  9. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Getting rid of our phantoms

    Getting rid of our phantoms


    Nandan Nilekani
    June 29, 2009
    First Published: 22:31 IST(29/6/2009)

    Today Indians can have a multitude of numbers with which to identify ourselves, depending on when and where we interact with the State. When we get a passport we get a passport ID, a ration card gets us another number, when we pay taxes we need a Permanent Account Number (PAN), when we register our vote we get a voter ID card, and on to bar code infinitum. “Our databases are in these disconnected silos,” Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami says. This makes zeroing in on a definite identity for each citizen particularly difficult, since each government department works on a different turf and with different groups of people. The lack of a unique number has given space to plenty of phantoms in voter lists and in Below Poverty Line (BPL) schemes and in holding bank accounts with multiple PANs. One academic tells me, “The number of BPL ration cards circulating in Karnataka is more than the state’s entire population, let alone the number of BPL families.”

    India’s ministries and departments are also quite isolated, with separate fund flows and intricate, over-hyphenated authority levels. As a result, these systems require paperwork-choked processes each time citizens approach the state. A common technology and process platform for government schemes and departments — especially now that they have such large budgets — would be a huge improvement in coordinating information between departments, and getting rid of redundancy and triplicate forms. Identity systems linked up with an IT-enabled process that interlinks our various departments would, besides making citizen information and identity more verifiable, make the relationship between the State and the citizen infinitely less traumatising. Such a ‘national grid’ would require, as a first and critical step, a unique and universal ID for each citizen. Creating a national register of citizens, assigning them a unique ID and linking them across a set of national databases, like the PAN and passport, can have far-reaching effects in delivering public services better and targeting services more accurately. Unique identification for each citizen also ensures a basic right — the right to ‘an acknowledged existence’ in the country, without which much of a nation’s poor can be nameless and ignored, and governments can draw a veil over large-scale poverty and destitution.

    The use of IT and the rise of such unique number systems are closely correlated. In the United States, for instance, the Social Security Administration (SSA) was the first federal bureaucracy to require the use of computers because of the overwhelming complexity of processing the social security numbers and data of its 200 million-plus citizens. The bureaucracy was a massive complex of wall-to-wall file cabinets managed by hundreds of clerks. It was the early IBM 705 computer that helped transform and streamline it. This mainframe approach quickly spread to European bureaucracies in the 60s and the 70s. The transparency and flexibility of such computerisation also enabled other reforms — such as laws that introduced individual citizen accounts for benefits and welfare payouts, a step which both opposition parties and citizens in Europe and the US would have been deeply suspicious of under the earlier, less transparent and bureaucracy-run system. In China as well, IT has helped the government transform its social security systems from a local network to a national, increasingly interlinked process.

    In India, the government has made some attempts towards such a single citizen ID number.... A stop-gap arrangement that the government has put in place requires the PAN as ‘the sole identification number’ during bank transactions. But of course, with just 60 million people with a PAN, this does not come close to a broad-based citizen ID....

    Too often though, we see issuing smart cards as the main challenge of implementing such a system. But building these intelligent little stripes is the easy part. It is in making the back-end infrastructure secure and scalable, providing a single record-keeper for the whole country and integrating the agents who issue these numbers that gets tough. To do this, we need a sustained and multi-pronged effort that cuts across governments as well as companies. For example, issuing this number to each citizen, say, during a census would be extremely onerous, as it is a painful task prone to errors as census officials spend long days walking through neighbourhoods and knocking on doors. It would be a lot more effective to issue these numbers when citizens come to the government.

    This would mean issuing citizen IDs when individuals come to a public office for an identification document — a passport, birth certificate, caste certificate, driver’s licence — when they come to collect a benefit such as a BPL card or when they have to make a financial transaction, such as pay taxes, open a bank account or buy into a mutual fund. The government can also easily recruit private companies such as telecommunication and financial services firms to become intermediary issuers to their large numbers of customers.

    Each of these paths to identifying the citizen and bringing him into the database would cover different pools of people. The PAN covers all tax payers, voter IDs all registered citizens over 18, birth certificates all newborns and BPL cards the poor. Using the databases to issue IDs to different groups of people means that the initiative would ramp up to near-universal, accurate levels very quickly. And if necessary, such efforts can be complemented with a census. A national smart ID done at this level could, I think, be transformational. Acknowledging the existence of every single citizen, for instance, automatically compels the State to improve the quality of services, and immediately gives the citizen better access....

    A key piece of infrastructure that must sit on top of an interconnected grid is the electronic flow of funds. This will require that each uniquely identified citizen or organisation has a financial account into which money can be transferred from the State. This could be an account in a bank, a post office or with a self-help group. And within this system, the ID smart card can function as a mobile, non-transferable electronic passbook.

    My guess is that the impact on inclusive growth and India’s savings rate from implementing this would be massive, considering that an estimated 80 per cent of Indians today do not have a bank account, and therefore lie outside any sort of banking system besides, perhaps, the one represented by the exploitative moneylender and his steel box of cash. “The weakest aspect of India’s economic reach is in financial access,” Dr C. Rangarajan agrees, “and its impact on inclusive growth has been severe.” For instance, people need savings to invest in education, spend on health care, or to feel secure enough to move to a city, leaving their home and land to take up jobs in a place where they have no real assets.

    Linking smart cards to such accounts can open up the banking system to hundreds of millions more people. It also introduces the possibility of offering direct services, from pension and benefit payments to trading accounts to an unprecedented number of people.

    This is an edited extract from Nandan Nilekani’s Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century (Penguin India).
     
  10. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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  11. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Can this thread be given a generic name 'Indian National ID project'.

    Thanks
    DD
     
  12. Antimony

    Antimony Regular Member

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    At this point we have a PAN card (which is a photo id card), a voter id card (again a photo id card), a ration card and a Passport.

    Why can't we use any of these platforms. I can think of several reasons why the VOter id card is not suitable, but can think of good reasons to

    1. Merge the PAN and ration cards, and use it for providing social services like PDS
    2. Establish the PAN card as National identity

    Also, call me paranoid, but I would like to understand what sort of checks and balances would be there from preventing unauthorised access (including access to bureaucrats) to our personal data
     
  13. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Holy Hell
    I just hope my picture looks good. Or else these govt photographers are too trigger happy. :blum3:.
     
  14. kautilya

    kautilya Regular Member

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    Yet you give your SSN for practically every application to almost any service at all where it is visible(and not just the last 4 either). The SSN itself being linked to almost everything about you. The combination of an SSN and a computerized drivers licence DB with biometric data on it is enough to uniquely track you. The Real ID act pretty much sealed that. Have you ever tried those websites that can tell you all your previous residences based on your current telephone no? Data privacy?

    Ultimately we're all counting on govt. everywhere being too lazy or too incompetent to bother. Anyway what personal data do you suppose it intends to have that your other IDs, the varied PANs, voter ID card and ration card don't have printed on them? Your name, address, age, DOB and when you last claimed sugar. Other than the last mentioned everything else is in plain sight on your drivers licence. Most other information will likely be compartmentalized. i.e. the number will be the primary key for the IT database but only the IT dept will be able to look it up. Not because of some great thought for our security but because it'd be easiest to implement.

    Besides the average indian (under 30 say) seems to put so much information on Orkut that it'd be easier to use than some grand database. I'm not saying security is not an important issue, just that given the general lack of security of all information(the greatest leak being people themselves), another card will be a drop in the ocean. Between your passport, drivers licence, Ration card, and Voters id, all of which can legitimately be inspected and indeed are, all the information you can ask for is right there.
     
  15. 1.44

    1.44 Member of The Month SEPTEMBER 2009 Senior Member

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    India's ID project catches fancy of US lawmakers

    India's ID project catches fancy of US lawmakers

    With work poised to begin on providing unique identification cards to all Indians, the ambitious project has already caught the attention in the US, with lawmakers asking the government why it could not implement a similar project here.
    "So they (India) are taking on a humongous scale something that we have been struggling with for 20 years," John Cornyn, the Republican Senator from Texas, said this week during a Congressional hearing on the country's employment verification system.

    Ex-Infosys Chairman Nandan Nilekani has taken over as head of an authority that will work on the project of giving unique identification numbers and cards to all citizens.

    "The predicted cost is three billion pounds for 1.2 billion citizens and will replace what right now is 20 different proofs of identity that are available and require in

    the words of the gentleman who's been appointed to head up this project a ubiquitous online database, and that will have to be impregnable to protect against loss of information," Cornyn said. He is also the Co-Chair of the Friends of India Caucus in the Senate.


    Senator Cornyn went on to ask Lynden Melmed, former Chief Counsel, US Citizenship and Immigration Services: "Why is it that we've been struggling for 20 years to do this, Mr Melmed? Do you think it's because we lack the knowledge, or is it a lack of political will?"

    Testifying before the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Melmed said it is partly due to lack of technological capabilities and partly due to reluctance on the part of the people to accept it.

    "I think there are two limitations over the past 20 years. The first is technological. "The capabilities that the government has today are far superior than it had 20 years ago, and even the discussion about the issue of an identification document when I have looked at the Congressional testimony from the 1986 debate surrounding a national ID card, it is a different environment and I think Americans are much more comfortable with the use of identification throughout their lives," Melmed said.

    "So I think it's a mix of both technological developments and social acceptance of the use of technology. I think more recently, however, it's just a challenge of coordinating employment verification with the other issues related to immigration reform and the recognition that dealing with the workplace with illegal workers in the workplace is inextricably tied to fixing the legal side of the immigration system," Melmed noted.

    India's ID project catches fancy of US lawmakers: Rediff Business News, Latest India business news, India Economy news, World Business, Finance news, Latest business headlines, business videos and business articles.
     
  16. Sridhar

    Sridhar House keeper Moderator

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    Microsoft keen to take part in Unique ID project: Gates

    Published on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 15:47 , Updated at Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 17:14
    Source : CNBC-TV18
    [​IMG] Email [​IMG] Print [​IMG] Watch Video

    [​IMG]
    Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, said, at an event today, that the global software giant was keen to participate in India's unique ID programme. Gates plans to meet Nandan Nilekani, who is Chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), tonight.

    The UIDAI project plans to provide every Indian with a unique identity card. The card gives the citizen a 16-digit ID number, which provides financial, educational, health-related information.
    Gates was speaking at an event, 'Transforming India through Technology', at the National Association of Software and Services Companies' (NASSCOM) CEO forum. Among other things, he also said that he saw Indian IT companies stepping up from being only service providers to innovators. He added that in a country like India, it was very important to know the country better inorder to service it better.
    “I see some of the companies really stepping this up and saying that it’s not going to be services but it’s going to be inventing and innovation,” Gates said. "Research is vital for all things that we do. Every company should put more into research whether it's healthcare, energy or any other sector."
    Gates also spoke about Microsoft and its stay in India. “When Microsoft started in India, we started with three goals, to be world-class in terms of the advancing, contribute to Microsoft products and be a great citizen here — play a significant role in the move in the move towards doing more research in the country.”
    Gates is in India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Microsoft keen to take part in Unique ID project: Gates
     
  17. Avinash R

    Avinash R Regular Member

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    ^ World over microsoft is being kicked out of govt and local body projects and is being replaced with open sourced software.

    Gates is too optimistic if he believes he can have a bite of the huge cake that is this national id project .

    Most people would rather NOT have their ID's made if they came to know about the properitary lock-in and lax security that is microsoft products.
     
  18. Avinash R

    Avinash R Regular Member

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    Posting an example to show the way microsoft operates.


    Due to weak or rather non-existent security model for windows, malware like conficker could penetrate computers running windows os. This led to not only loss of revenue due to delay in collection of fines but microsoft made the council pay £1.2 million to repair the computers.

    And the recent DDoS attacks on major US and South Korean sites could only be accomplished thanks to Microsoft.
     
  19. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    High-cost, high-risk

    High-cost, high-risk

    R. RAMAKUMAR
    The UPA government is going ahead with the ID card project, ignoring criticisms and alternative suggestions.

    G.R.N. SOMASHEKHAR

    Nandan Nilekani, Chairperson, Unique Identification Authority.
    WITH the appointment of Nandan Nilekani as the Chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority (UIA), it is clear that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has decided to go ahead with the controversial project to provide each Indian citizen with a unique and multi-purpose identity card. The media are abuzz with commentators praising the government for a landmark decision that would “change the face of governance” in India. With contracts worth hundreds of crores up for grabs, the IT industry too is in delight. “Bring them on! We will fix it,” the tech industry appears to be claiming on what is essentially a social problem.

    The project was initiated by the National Democratic Alliance government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. A perusal of its history shows that the dirty groundwork had already been completed under the NDA. The origins of the project can be traced back to the controversial report of the Kargil Review Committee, appointed in the wake of the Kargil War, in 1999. This committee was chaired by K. Subrahmanyam and had as its members B.G. Verghese, Satish Chandra and K.K. Hazari. In its report submitted in January 2000, the committee noted that immediate steps were needed to issue ID cards to villagers in border districts, pending its extension to other parts of the country. By around 2001, a Group of Ministers of the NDA government submitted a report to the government, titled Reforming the National Security System. This report was based largely on the findings of the Subrahmanyam Committee. The report noted:

    “Illegal migration has assumed serious proportions. There should be compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens living in India. This will facilitate preparation of a national register of citizens. All citizens should be given a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design.”

    In 2003, the NDA government initiated a series of steps to ensure the smooth preparation of the national register, which was to form the basis for the preparation of ID cards. The best way was to link the preparation of the register with the Census of India. However, the Census has always had strong clauses relating to the privacy of its respondents. Thus, the Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended in 2003, soon after the MNIC was instituted.

    This amendment allowed for the creation of the post of Director of Citizen Registration, who was also to function as the Director of Census in each State. According to the citizenship rules notified on December 10, 2003, the onus for registration was placed on the citizen: “It shall be compulsory for every Citizen of India to…get himself registered in the Local Register of Indian Citizens.” The rules also specified punishments for citizens who failed to do so; any violation was to be “punishable with fine, which may extend to one thousand rupees”.

    In other words, the privacy clauses relating to Census surveys were diluted significantly by the NDA government in 2003 itself.

    The UPA government has only carried forward the plans of the NDA government under a new name. The MNIC project was replaced by the National Authority for Unique Identity (NAUID), and placed under the Planning Commission. The NAUID was established in January 2009, after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. However, the steps to establish it had begun even before the Mumbai attacks.

    According to a press release of the government dated November 10, 2008, the Unique Identity (UID) project would serve a variety of purposes: “better targeting of government’s development schemes, regulatory purposes [including taxation and licensing], security purposes, banking and financial sector activities, etc.” The UID will be “progressively extended to various government programmes and regulatory agencies, as well as private sector agencies in the banking, financial services, mobile telephony and other such areas.” As per the interim budget of the UPA government in February 2009, the UIA was established.

    The public response to the ID project has been influenced by the liberal praise that the media have showered on it. In fact, the nature of reporting would have one in doubt on whether the praise is for the project per se or for the appointment of the Chairperson. Some commentators hailed Nilekani’s appointment as a first step in the absorption of technocrats into government. It has also been argued that ID cards would increase the efficiency of poverty alleviation programmes. In fact, while better delivery of poverty alleviation programmes is the stated primary objective of the project, it is no one’s doubt that the actual primary objective is to address terrorism.

    Indeed, the presence of identity cards for citizens in an electronic format is a welcome measure. In specific sectors/schemes and in specific contexts, it can increase the efficiency of service delivery. At the same time, there are a number of reasons why the UIA project has to be thoroughly critiqued, and even opposed.

    PRIVACY & CIVIL LIBERTIES
    First, international experience shows that very few countries have provided national ID cards to citizens. The most important reason has been the unsettled debate on the protection of privacy and civil liberties. It has been argued that the data collected as part of providing ID cards, and the information stored in the cards, may be misused for a variety of purposes. For instance, there is the problem of “functionality creep” where the card can serve purposes other than its original intent. Some have argued that ID cards can be used to profile citizens in a country and initiate a process of racial/ethnic cleansing, as during the Rwanda genocide of 1995. Legislation on privacy cannot be a guarantee against the possibilities of misuse of ID cards.

    Two countries where the issue of national ID cards has been well debated are the United States and the United Kingdom. In both these countries, the project was shelved after public protests. Countries such as Australia have also shelved ID card schemes. While China declared its intention to introduce an ID card, it later withdrew the clause to have biometric data stored in such cards.

    In the U.S., privacy groups have long opposed ID cards; there was opposition also when the government tried to expand the use of the social security number in the 1970s and 1980s. The disclosure of the social security number to private agencies had to be stopped in 1989 following a public outcry. A health security card project proposed by Bill Clinton was set aside even after the government promised “full protection for privacy and confidentiality”.

    Finally, the George W. Bush administration settled in 2005 for an indirect method of providing ID cards to U.S. citizens. In what came to be called a “de-facto ID system”, the REAL ID Act made it mandatory for all U.S. citizens to get their drivers’ licences re-issued, replacing old licences. In the application form for reissue, the Department of Homeland Security added new questions that became part of the database on driving licence holders. As almost all citizens of the U.S. had a driving licence, this became an informal electronic database of citizens. Nevertheless, these cards cannot be used in the U.S. for any other requirement, such as in banks or airlines. The debate on the confidentiality of the data collected by the U.S. government continues to be alive even today.

    The most interesting debate on the issue of national ID cards has been in the U.K. With the introduction of the Identity Cards Bill of 2004, the Tony Blair government declared its intent to issue ID cards for all U.K. citizens. Public protests have forced the Labour government to shelve the policy to date. The debate has mainly centred around the critical arguments in an important research report on the desirability of national ID cards prepared by the Information Systems and Innovations Group at the London School of Economics (LSE). The LSE’s report is worth reviewing here.

    LSE’s REPORT
    The report identified key areas of concern with the Blair government’s plans, which included their high risk and likely high cost, as well as technological and human rights issues. The report noted that the government’s proposals “are too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence”. While accepting that preventing terrorism is the legitimate role of the state, the report expressed doubts on whether ID cards would prevent terror attacks through identity theft:

    “…preventing identity theft may be better addressed by giving individuals greater control over the disclosure of their own personal information, while prevention of terrorism may be more effectively managed through strengthened border patrols and increased presence at borders, or allocating adequate resources for conventional police intelligence work…. A card system such as the one proposed in the Bill may even lead to a greater incidence of identity fraud…. In consequence, the National Identity Register may itself pose a far larger risk to the safety and security of U.K. citizens than any of the problems that it is intended to address.”

    In conclusion, the LSE report noted that “…identity systems may create a range of new and unforeseen problems. These include the failure of systems, unforeseen financial costs, increased security threats and unacceptable imposition on citizens. The success of a national identity system depends on a sensitive, cautious and cooperative approach involving all key stakeholder groups, including an independent and rolling risk assessment and a regular review of management practices. We are not confident that these conditions have been satisfied in the development of the Identity Cards Bill. The risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals.”

    TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM
    Secondly, an interesting aspect of the discussion in India is the level of technological determinism on display. It would appear that the problem of citizenship can be fixed by the use of technology. The fact that the UIA is to be headed by a technocrat like Nilekani, and not a demographer, is evidence to this biased view of the government. The problems of enumeration in a society like India’s, marked by illegal immigration as well as internal migration, especially of people from poor labour households, are too enormous to be handled effectively by a technocrat. It is intriguing that the duties of the Census Registrar and the UIA Chairperson have been demarcated, and that the UIA Chairperson has been placed as a Cabinet Minister above the Census Registrar.

    Such technological determinism has been a feature of efforts to introduce ID cards in other countries too, such as the U.K. The rhetorical confidence of the U.K. government in the scheme has always sat uncomfortably with its own technological uncertainty regarding the project. Critics pointed out that a slight failure in any of the technological components may immediately affect underlying confidence of people in the scheme as a whole. For instance, the LSE report noted:

    RAJANISH KAKADE/AP

    Shiv Kumar Chinna Coundar in Mumbai with a temporary ID card issued by a fishermen’s society that allows him to work while waiting for a state-issued ID card, which became compulsory for all fishermen on the open seas after the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai. The origins of the ID card project can be traced to the Kargil Review Committee report, which noted that immediate steps were needed to issue ID cards to villagers in border districts, pending its extension to other parts of the country.
    “The technology envisioned for this scheme is, to a large extent, untested and unreliable. No scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious systems have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in a large-scale, national system. The proposed system unnecessarily introduces, at a national level, a new tier of technological and organisational infrastructure that will carry associated risks of failure. A fully integrated national system of this complexity and importance will be technologically precarious and could itself become a target for attacks by terrorists or others.”

    Blair, nevertheless, was an ardent advocate of the ID card scheme. In an article in The Daily Telegraph, he argued that ID cards were required to secure U.K’s borders and ease modern life, and that “the case for ID cards is a case not about liberty but about the modern world”. Responding to the invocation of modernity, Edgar A. Whitley, Reader at LSE and a member of its research team, noted that “intellectually, technological determinism seemed to us to reduce the intimate intertwining of society and technology to a simple cause-and-effect sequence.”

    Thirdly, would the ID card scheme result in an increase in the efficiency of the government’s poverty alleviation schemes? According to Nilekani, the ID card “will help address the widespread embezzlement that affects subsidies and poverty alleviation programmes”. However, it is difficult to foresee any major shift in the efficiency frontiers of poverty alleviation programmes if ID cards are introduced. The poor efficiency of government schemes in India is not because of the absence of technological monitoring. The reasons are structural, and these structural barriers cannot be transcended by using ID cards.

    COMPREHENDING SOCIAL REALITIES
    Take one claim – unique ID cards would lead to “better targeting of government’s development schemes”. Here is where the thinking behind the ID cards fails to comprehend the social realities that reduce the access of needy sections to welfare schemes. If we apply the argument to the Public Distribution System (PDS), it would imply that the government could ensure that only BPL households benefit from the scheme. But the most important problem with the PDS in India is not that non-BPL households benefit from it but that large sections are not classified as BPL in the first place.

    Further, there are major problems associated with having a classification of households as BPL or APL based on a survey conducted in one year, and then following the same classification for many years. Incomes of rural households, especially rural labour households, fluctuate considerably. A household may be non-poor in the year of survey, but may become poor the next year because of uncertainties in the labour market. How will an ID card solve this most important barrier to efficiency in the PDS?

    Yet another claim is that a simple cash-transfer scheme, which can replace existing poverty alleviation programmes, will become possible if ID cards are introduced. To begin with, cash-transfer schemes have not been found to be efficient substitutes for public works schemes in any part of the developing world. In addition, for the same reasons discussed in the context of the PDS, a cash-transfer scheme would also lead to the exclusion of a large number of needy from cash benefits. An ID card cannot be of any help in such scenarios.

    Also, the case of BPL cards cited above cannot be considered as a special case. Given that the BPL population has special privileges in many social welfare provisions, this would also be a larger and persistent problem in the use of ID cards for any purpose in the social sector.

    Fourthly, the costs involved in such a project are always enormous and have to be weighed against the limited benefits that are likely to follow. In India, the cost estimated by the government itself is a whopping Rs.1.5 lakh crore. Even after the commitment of such levels of expenditures, the uncertainty over the technological options and ultimate viability of the scheme remains. In addition, it is unclear whether recurring costs for maintaining a networked system necessary for ID cards to function effectively have been accounted for by the government.

    In the case of the U.K., the LSE report noted that the costs of the scheme were significantly underestimated by the government. The critique of the LSE group on the costing exercise of the U.K. government is a good case study of why the costs of such schemes are typically underestimated. The LSE group estimated that the costs would lie between £10.6 billion and £19.2 billion, excluding public or private sector integration costs. This was considerably higher than the estimate of the U.K. government.

    Apart from the reasons discussed above, there are other simple questions for which answers are not easily forthcoming. Suppose a poor household, which has been regularly using the ID card, loses the card. Would that mean that all the benefits to the household will cease until a new card is provided (that is surely to take many weeks in the Indian context)? Why cannot we think of other options, such as providing separate electronic cards for some of the very important schemes? What happens to the use of ID cards in villages that do not even have electricity, leave alone Internet connections?

    MISUSE OF DATABASE
    In conclusion, the ID card project of the UPA government, which is the continuation of a hawkish idea of the NDA, appears to be missing the grade on most criteria. There is no reason to disbelieve the argument that the centralised database of citizens could be misused to profile citizens in undesirable and dangerous ways.

    The scheme is extraordinarily expensive. There is an unrealistic assumption behind the project that technology can be used to fix the ills of social inefficiencies. The benefits from the project, in terms of raising the efficiency of government schemes, appear to be limited.

    This is not to argue against any form of electronic management of data or provision of services. It may certainly be useful to have an identity card for citizens, which can be made use of in any part of the country for identification as well as for availing themselves of certain minimum benefits. At present, roughly 80 per cent of India’s citizens have an election ID card. The use of this ID card can be easily expanded, with some innovation, to convert it into a master card for a specified set of purposes.

    But what is the social benefit of centralising all information and access to welfare schemes into one smart card? Unfortunately, the UPA government has skipped public debate around criticisms and alternative suggestions. •

    R. Ramakumar is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
     
  20. Tamil

    Tamil Regular Member

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    Great project, we all need a UNIQUE ID as rapid Speed. :india:
     
  21. natarajan

    natarajan Senior Member Senior Member

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    i have serious doubt about implementation as all immigrants and others will get this card by providing money or for votes they may be given
     

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