Technology

How Aadhaar [UID] helps in Financial Inclusion

aadhaar-authentication-process

Despite  many obstacles the prestigious Aadhaar Project is proceeding at a brisk pace. It was two years ago on September 29, 2010 that the first Aadhaar number was given to Ranjana Sonawane in the Tembhli village of Nandurbar district in Maharashtra. With over 22 crore cards being issued so far, more Indians are likely to get an aadhaar card sooner or later.

The phase II is expected to cover 400 million Indians by 2014. In this phase the UIDAI also expects put Aadhaar to use in tackling real challenges. Already UID is being used in pilot applications across the country. In December 2011, the first pilot started in Jharkhand where MGNREGS wages, Old Age Pensions and Student Scholarships were transferred directly into the Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of residents, without any middlemen handling the money.

 

The beneficiaries could even access basic banking services such as cash withdrawal, deposit and balance enquiry using a micro- ATM. The micro-ATMs or the Aadhaar- Enabled-Payment-System (AEPS) are powered by Aadhaar biometric (fingerprint) authentication. The three banks participating in the pilot trained their business correspondents (BCs) to operate the devices. The objective of this pilot was to ensure that residents in rural areas who do not have access to ATMs and bank branches do not have to spend an entire day travelling to the nearest bank branch for getting their wages.

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) created the Aadhaar Payments Bridge (APB), which ensured that money can be transferred directly into anyone’s account by just knowing the payee’s Aadhaar number.

The Food & Civil Supplies Department of Andhra Pradesh started a PDS pilot on 1st September 2012 in the East Godavari districts at 47 fair price shops. The beneficiaries who were indeed entitled for subsidized rice, pulses, sugar and palm oil underwent Aadhaar biometric authentication to get their rations. Around 1.25 lakh target beneficiaries would participate in and benefit from this pilot in Andhra Pradesh. The first 10 days of the  pilot saw 15000 automated PDS transactions.

With this adoption rate Aadhaar will soon become the only aadhaar (proof) a citizen will ever need.

Update: For a more detailed background on Aadhaar Project read this DQIndia article by @Shyamanuja

Coming Soon…Open Data, in an office near You

open data portal india

The Open Data Portal of India went live. Its built on the Open Government Platform released by India and US jointly. The platform has been released in open source and is freely available for download and use. The new Open Data Portal has a total of 17 data sets as of now from 7 departments. It is expected that more and more data sets will be released on the site as Departments release the data. There are 5 Data Controllers who are nominated to co-ordinate data released from their departments.

Interestingly the portal also hosts four mobile sample apps which are also available for download.The portal also has communities for Developers and special focus communities on Energy,Education,Health,Rural Development and Agriculture.

It seems that NIC has really worked a lot on the portal and has departed from its tradition in many ways. For example the usage of sliders in home page using fusion charts to display Visitor Statistics .

This site has many Web 2.0 features like blogs, forum and even flaunts some user related data unlike any other government site. This is probably the first time that NIC guys are working on an open source project of this scale. This is the first Government website that uses tags for articles extensively and has a dedicated tags page. This is also the first website that has a AddThis share button.

The website provides social login options using the Janrain social login service. Government officer with NICeMail service id can login directly with their credentials.

open data community

There is a directory of world wide open data sites with 30 countries listed. Almost all countries have only one open data site except the USA that has 20 sites listed. It may be due to the face that the US Government is closely involved in the Open Data initiative in India. Ofcourse you can ask for a dataset and suggest them to be added in the open data portal.

There is no uniform copyright policy for data released on the portal and is governed by the licence set in metadata of the dataset. While the portal bears major resemblances to its USA version it is still in its infancy in terms of number of datasets, their formats and the number of departments. However its a commendable initiative and a far reaching one. Its the mark of a new era in transparency and openness in Government.

Semantic web is the future and WordPress will help create it

wordlift-semantic-web

WordPress may be the world’s most popular CMS as a long time user and enthusiast i was wondering that it was lacking on two counts. One is the semantic web front and the other is data storage and manipulation capabilities. One can easily imagine running a million pageviews a day website on WordPress like Mashable or TechCrunch. WordPress has covered a lot of ground by adding custom post types and custom taxonomy to reincarnate the blogging platform into a full fledged CMS.

Meanwhile other contenders in the open source CMS like Drupal and Joomla made considerable progress and created a niche for themselves. Drupal dominates the high end portals and websites, government websites and data intensive applications. Almost all of Open Data initiatives in US, UK, Norway and even in India are based on Drupal with special modules. We will running experiments on these platforms and report it at GovHash.

But the biggest strength of WordPress is the strong and passionate user community which keeps coming up with excellent solutions to solve problems. The team at InsideOut10 an italian startup has released WordLift which marries semantic web technology to WordPress. The Interactive Knowledge Stack (IKS) is the open source technology that is behind WordLift.

Now the real story is that WordLift is inviting beta-testers. If you are interested in testing how microdata can help machines understand and relate to your website/blog content then go here and join. I have signed up and hope to get invited. Stay tuned in to get more updates. Meanwhile you can watch this presentation to know more about the semantic possibilities. It is the future.

Who is a Digital Native – Are you one?

digital natives

(photo credit)

Digital Native is a term use to refer to those generation of people who are born after the digital technology arrived. The Digital age that enabled the individuals to transfer information freely and get instant access to information. When connectedness whether to information or people evolved when the Digital native emerged.This dawn of Digital Age roughly coincided with the 1960s. However i feel that for the Developing countries or the “South” as they are known as in a Digital age the dawn happened in the late 1990s when the mobile and internet connectivity emerged. Even now only 5% of Indian have access to any form of Internet connectivity.

The problem with this definition is that it assumes a time period as a cut-off. But it is difficult to exactly measure when the technological change happens. It is an iterative as well ad innovative process. The adoption of technology is an organic process that varies across geographies due to enabling or disabling factors.

The other definition of Digital Native

The other view is that Digital native refers to those who understand technology and adopt it to solve life problems or seek to create an impact. It is learned trait. This is similar to the nature vs nurture debate that is still unresolved in Life sciences to Management (whether leadership traits are inborn or acquired).

A person who was born before the technology arrived and adopted it later is called a Digital Immigrant.

Technology adoption is influenced by social, economic and political barriers as also personal interests. It is not possible to paint all digital natives as similar in one brush stroke. Even within a country or even a locality the technology access and adoption are not linear. One can hope arrive at a workable concept or idea of a digital native by choosing to analyse how the Digital natives choose to engage with their immediate environment and use technology for personal and social change.

The status of an Indian

I think most Indians would be a combination of a Digital Native and a Digital immigrant. For most people, the technology may have arrived. But for them to access it there are many barriers like affordability, access and cultural factors. For example an iPhone is still unaffordable to most Digital natives of India today. In the same way vast majority of rural India still doesn’t have access to broadband internet services. Even if it is available cultural factors like lack of awareness, negative attitude on the part of parents or significant people may inhibit access. So a time based classification doesnt really suit the purpose.

Open Source Enablers for Open Gov and Open Data

All Data is information, Connected data is knowledge.

To connect data a common language or notation is a must. There are many standards available that can be sued in creating this common notation. Popular among them are Xtensible Markup Language(XML) and Resource Description Framework (RDF). Both have related technologies that extend their functionalities.

Drupal is leading the way in making available technologies that enable Open Gov and Open Data. It is the leading CMS for Government websites, particularly those with data applications. Its no brainer that the Open Government Platform (OGPL) released by Government of India is based on Drupal. The idea and a early implementation of Drupal for data applications came from an award winning paper by Stephane Corlosquet et al. This can revolutionize the way data is handled in Government. The presentation is embedded below:

Govhashing the Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 Open Source software and content

Govhash is dedicated to creating newer smarter and agile approach to solve governance issues. With that idea in mind we will be experimenting with the various open source solutions that are freely available for use. We will try to hash them to apply for newer geographies, domains or applications.

The Digital Agenda Assembly of the EU set a fine example for the OpenGov movement by making open the content and the platform. It is based on Drupal 7. The discussions are also available as a zip archive.

I tried installing the software on my shared hosting server, created the database table and tried to run the install script. It showed a MySQL error with PDO. On further enquiry I found that the error is because my shared host not providing the required MySQL version as per Drupal Requirements.

drupal daa12 pdo error

Lessons Learnt:

Check up the requirements and compatibility before installing any software.

When signing up for hosting be clear about your requirements and ensure that the service provider is supporting the specs.

Data.Gov celebrates three years of Openness

Data.Gov the open data portal of USA celebrates its three of openness.

Growing from 47 datasets in 2009 to nearly 450,000 datasets today, Data.gov reaches across 172 federal agencies to bring data to innovators, developers, analysts and citizens across the nation. The data shows up in smart phone apps, websites, and information that lets people buy smarter, use energy more efficiently, and find better health-care solutions each day.

Source: Data.gov

Data.gov had become a vibrant community of experts from the public, academia, industry, and government to address the national challenges in energy, health, and law, and this year new communities launched on safety, education, manufacturing, oceans, ethics, developers, and business. These topic-based communities drive open data to higher levels by organizing challenges to inspire new innovations to supporting code-a-thons in cities, to building platforms for entrepreneurs to find new technologies and grow their businesses—Data.gov is putting federal data to work for Americans.

Data.gov is managed by the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies working with the U.S. Chief Information Officer and U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

At this juncture I couldn’t resist the temptation to compare the Indian response to the #OpenGov movement. India has released the Open Government Platform in collaboration with US . Though India is not a signatory to the Open Government Partnership this is a welcome step towards Open Data. It’s a challenge and an opportunity for India to use open data a driver of growth, economic equity and sustainable development.