The Indian Government has proposed a scheme by which the subsidies for the poor will be disbursed as cash / credit electronically to a smart card issued as part of the program for Unique Identity called Aadhaar. Having seen how the Electronic Voting Machine has been deployed successfully, I feel that there is a possibility for this idea to be successful too – provided a suitable digitised ecosystem is created around this.
In fact, this model of issuing a smart card throws up some interesting opportunities for digitisation. Here is some crystal ball gazing…
POS For PDS
The point at which the card would be playing a major role is at the outlets of the Public Distribution System (PDS), which have been acting as the POS for subsidised food items (food grains, sugar, edible oils) for the poor.
Since the smart card has to be validated using biometrics, POS equipment with biometric capability will be required in large numbers in the country.
3G / 4G network
The POS equipment will need to be connected through to a backend system which holds the credit available for the card and the biometric reference data for validation.
My recollection about PDS outlets, which date back to 25-30 years, when for buying certain rationed commodities we too had to go to these PDS outlets, is that they would not have great data connectivity wireline infrastructure. Wireless mechanism – 3G or 4G networks would help roll this process faster.
Another important area that will come up would be the analytics around beneficiaries who use the card. This data can help the Government to understand the needs of this class of citizen better and enable bring in new schemes for the betterment of their lot.
Building an analytics solution that can mine this data and bring out the patterns for future Government planning would be required.
Cloud Based Access
However, it is not only the Government that need this analytics – there are a number of Socio-economic agencies amongst NGOs, International Aid Units and, even a few Religious Missionaries. It is possible that their work today, based on data published by the Government does not meet their requirements and they may want to mine out their own inferences from the data.
It would be good to have a PaaS model platform created from which published API are used by third parties to create new apps easily.
Of course, since data would be available about private citizen, to protect their identities and details, besides making the API, there would be requirements to encrypt information and ensure protection from cyber attacks.
Other Digitisation Opportunities
What we have seen above is one instance of digitisation in the Government / Social Welfare sector around the Aadhaar Card. I can think of at-least two more ecosystems that can ride on this smart card with suitable digitisation initiatives – rural / urban employment schemes for poor semi-skilled or non-skilled labourers (see Saral Rozgar from CanvasM) and micro-banking are also prime candidates.