Saturday, June 16, 2007
Epoch making changes in the offing in India
Bihar, was a notorious state in India, for its bad governance, for decades, is in for a new wave of change, under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Nitish Kumar its gentle yet no nonsense Chief Minister.
Recently under the directive of the Chief Minister, the Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Vaidyanath Mahto, the State Administration headed by Shri. A.K. Chaudhary, IAS, Chief Secretary and Department of Rural Development headed by Mr. Anup Mukherjee, IAS, Principal Secretary, embarked on a plan to root out corruption in its grass root poverty alleviation programme - National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, a centrally sponsored scheme, for generating employment opportunities in rural districts, for creation of assets for sustainable living, to alleviate poverty.
An article in the e-World of a leading daily on the topic "Biometric Tracking Gives Tamper Proof Identity to villagers" by Jaya Menon, featuring Kris Dev, a Management and ICT Consultant, specializing in decentralization and e-Governance, Co-Founder of Life Line to Business (LL2B), Chennai, recipient of the prestigious Manthan Award 2006 instituted by the Digital Empowerment Foundation, a national chapter of the World Summit Award, Austria, in the framework of the United Nation's World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in association with American India Foundation, for creating India's Best e-Content in the category 'e-Inclusion and Livelihood creation', for his pioneering work "Biometric tracking of payments under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act" for the grass root initiatives among poverty stricken and calamity prone in backward tribal hamlets of rural Andhra Pradesh, said "Kris is still waiting with crossed fingers for the first invitation to a village in India for implementing the project".
This article set the ball rolling and Mr. Anup Mukherjee wrote to Mr. Kris Dev as follows: "Just read about your exploits,,,. Very exciting. It says, you are still waiting for the invitation to a village in India for implementing the project. If your solution does all that the article describes, it would be ideal for Bihar where people find ways to beat all systems. In fact we are also thinking of biometric muster rolls for our Rural Employment Guarantee schemes. Would you be ready to start a pilot project in Bihar"?
In the meantime, more articles appeared in leading Indian newspapers and magazines on Biometric Smart Cards for NREGP implementation.
Bihar State Electronics Corporation Ltd., (BSEDC), a Govt. of Bihar Undertaking, invited Life Line to Business (LL2B) to give a demo of the biometric tracking to the officials of Rural Development Department. Based on the satisfactory demo, Life Line to Business (LL2B) was recently asked to conduct a proof of concept for 100 NREGP beneficiaries in a rural block of Bihar, between June 5 and 8, 2007. Kris Dev and Ashwin V.G.of Life Line to business (LL2B), went from Chennai to Patna to do the field work, carrying their laptop, web cam, scanner, biometric device, etc.
The villages identified for the proof of concept was Kurkuri and Dhuparchak Musahari, most under developed, in Gonpura Panchayat, Phulwarisharif Block of Patna district. The proof of concept was done among 170 men and women who are registered beneficiaries and having NREGP Cards with photographs. The registration and verification was done using different optical biometric devices.
The first biometric device used was a Fingkey Hamster computer linked optical finger size biometric device for registering all the ten fingers (twice each finger for getting the best value of minutiae counts) and a photograph of the beneficiary taken and all his personal data such as name, father / mother / husband name, date of birth, address, etc. registered and their NREGP Card with the photograph and details was scanned and attached to their details, for creating a permanent database.
After the registration process was completed, the verification was done immediately, by entering the NREGP ID number and the beneficiary was asked to place any finger on the biometric device. Lo, the individual's photo would instantly pop up from the database on the computer monitor. This gave a high level of confidence to an illiterate labourer, as seeing their own photo popping up on placing any finger, was believing that biometric registration of all ten fingers gave them unique identity.
The photograph would pop up in the computer monitor, every time any finger was placed on the biometric device, by entering their NREGP ID number, when a one to one match of any of the ten fingers takes place. Simultaneously, the attendance was marked as 'in' or 'out' depending on whether it was the first or second entry and a permanent record created in the database, for attendance tracking. The photo popping up on placing a finger and the attendance tracking, and a simultaneous print out of the attendance could also be made available.
For the field work, it was desired that a mobile optical biometric device with its own battery power back up would be more suitable for daily attendance tracking. A stand alone hand held biometric device that can run with rechargeable batteries and store 1,500 finger prints was used for the registration and verification. The device also had the capability to register the NREGP ID and all the ten fingers (each 3 times for getting the best minutiae count).
Registration and verification of finger prints was 100% successful with both the devices. It is also possible to integrate finger print registration with a smart card which can store the finger prints and personal data for use any time any where. If the smart card is linked to the post office or bank account, then the payments can automatically credited into the post office or bank account and the multipurpose smart card used as a biometric debit card for making purchases or for drawing money from ATMs.
The poor citizens can track by themselves the attendance, the work done and the payment received. No one would be able to cheat them, as the smart card and the print outs are permanent records of all transactions.
Bihar would have the unique distinction of becoming the first state in India to introduce biometric tracking for NREGP to root out corruption, empower the poor and alleviate stark poverty.
The citizens of India are now waiting with crossed fingers for Nitish Kumar to show the way, for the transformation of Bihar that could pave the way for empowerment of poor citizens in all sectors such as health, education, noon meal scheme, employment, old age pension, etc.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
ICT for empowering the marginalized and bridging digital divide
The Indian Express Tuesday June 12, 2007
Front Page Story
Bihar shows smart card way to cleaner rural job schemes (in India)
Posted online: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 0000 hrs
Villagers working under NREG scheme get tamper-proof identity cards through biometric authentication
CHENNAI, JUNE 11: Devanti Devi, Dilip Shaw and Bisuandayal Manjhi of the Gonpura panchayat in Bihar will soon be sporting smart job cards that also double up as ATM/debit cards. They are workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme (NREG) and are among 170 men and women in two villages who would be the first to be registered as NREG members through a foolproof biometric verification device.
For three days from last Tuesday, after the initial hostility and scepticism, villagers in Kurkuri and Dhuparchak Mushahari in Phulwarisharif block of Patna district, gathered at the Panchayat office to place their fingers (all 10) on a Korean-made biometric device. Each finger was registered twice for getting the best value of minutiae counts (the whorls and ridges on a finger).
Then the villagers were photographed and all their personal data was registered on their NREG Card. With the photograph and details scanned and attached to their names, the state created a permanent database on the workers.
After the registration process was completed, the verification was done immediately by entering the NREG ID number, and the beneficiary was asked to place any finger on the biometric device, a small machine that is easily portable to the worksite. The individual's photograph instantly popped up from the database on the computer monitor.
"The technology has been proven through a transparent system. Now we have to link it to our NREG process which will give every member a job card or a smart card and cover entire Bihar," Anup Mukherji, Commissioner of the Rural Development Department, told The Indian Express.
All that a panchayat would need for implementing a fool-proof registration and verification process is a biometric device costing about Rs. 20,000, a laptop computer of about Rs. 25,000, a webcam or a digital camera and a personnel for operating the devices.
With Nitish Kumar keen on making the poverty alleviation programme a success in his state, his government had initially hit on the idea of fingerprinting each of the NREG workers at the time of registration and during payment of their wages. But this was hardly effective since verification of the fingerprints was a mind-boggling process and required a forensic expert to certify each of them.
It was around this time that an article in The Indian Express on January 28 this year on a biometric tracking concept devised by Kris Dev, a Chennai-based e-governance consultant, caught the attention of the Bihar administration. Mukherji got in touch with Kris Dev and asked him to prove to the state government that the technology worked at the ground level. "If your solution does all that the article describes, it would be ideal for Bihar where people find ways to beat all systems," Mukherji told Kris Dev.
Dev went to Patna in February to make a presentation to the Bihar State Electronics Corporation and later at two villages. On June 7, Nitish Kumar watched the demo in the two villages that Kris Dev presented and gave a spot clearance for the concept to be implemented throughout Bihar.
"It is surprising that Bihar should become the first state in India to introduce biometric tracking for NREG," said Dev today.
Kris Dev, ICT & e-Gov Consultant, Manthan Awardee 2006 for Creating India's best e-Content in the category 'e-Inclusion & Livelihood' creation. http://ll2b.blogspot.com. (0) 98 408 52132.