Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Smart Cards & Smart Government

Its been quite sometime that I blogged. But, I was active on Twitter and LinkedIn for the past couple of months and busy preparing for Open Group India conference Chennai. It got over yesterday and I presented a topic that compares Enterprise Architecture Vs Project Portfolio Management. The session was received very well and invited good amount of questions. I wish I had more time to discuss and debate those questions.

In this post, I wanted to blog about a recent announcement that was made in Indian Budget. So far, Indian Government has been giving subsidiaries for food grains and offers them at lowest prices to people below poverty line thru public distribution systems. Now, the delivery mechanisms - Public Distribution Systems - are not that effective to pass on those benefits to poor. They are lost in transit or quality food grains are not offered to Poor due to various reasons. So, the Plan was perfect, but the execution was bad.

To solve this issue, Indian Government in the recent budget has made an announcement. In this new system, the Government would pass on cash transfers to poor people instead of provisioning subsidised food grains. so, people would be able to buy food materials at market prices (because of cash transfers). Its a change in delivery mechanism, instead of sell side, the subsidiaries are passed onto the buy-side.

Ok, Where is technology coming to picture here?

Now, the question is, How do the Government make sure that cash transfers are made to the right people/people who deserve?. It's by means of two mechanisms - one a unique identification number (UID) that Indian Government has started allocating to its citizens and second a Smart Card. A smart card would be associated with UID and the cash transfers would be made not in the form of physical cash, but in the Smart Card format. Hence, people who deserve only can make use of the scheme.

Now, the Smart Card would get used atleast two places - one at the time of credit, by the Government. And second, at the time of debit, by the retail stores/public distribution system - pretty much like a credit/debit card. And the citizens can't buy whatever they want using the virtual money. To start with, they can buy only kerosene and LPG Gas. Food Grains to follow soon...

Its interesting to see Technology is making inroads into the Social Fabric of the society. And soon, the same Smart Card could carry quite a lot of other information as well like health information, patient records, utility bills, etc. Its just the beginning!

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