Data safety is the key

Published On: November 21, 2018 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

There was much fanfare on Monday as the government started the nationwide program of distributing National ID card from Panchthar district. However, people have already received voter ID, poor ID, smart license, social security and others. There is no coherent strategy when it comes to the purpose of these different cards. We also don’t know if the data being collected by various agencies is safe and is not prone to hackers. When chief minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa died in 2016, people in Kathmandu did not get their license card because the server was down in Tamil Nadu. We do not have control over the data. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to secure the data on its own. 
The government is spending billions in distributing different kinds of cards to the people.

Development agencies have also contributed in such projects. But there is a clear lack of coordination and trust deficit among state agencies digitizing vital national data which has cost the state coffers dear. For example, National Identity Management Center under Ministry of Home Affairs is spending $4.9 million provided by Asian Development Bank for national ID cards. Election Commission (EC) spent around Rs 2 billion to collect the biometric details of voters. Another Rs 1.5 million was spent to print temporary voter ID cards in 2013. Besides, we don’t know if the data being collected is safe. And none of these cards are multipurpose. The government is spending billions, without actually figuring out the best way to use the data collected from the people. There needs to be some coherence and a clear policy when it comes to the types of cards the government needs to distribute. Often times, some of these projects appear to be driven more by vested interest of a particular donor agency or a group of people within the government. All for quick money. Talking to Republica, government officials say conflicting interest of donor agencies in funding ID projects also lead to duplication.  

The National ID could have included all the other data of an individual. This would have saved billions and data management would have been much easier. The government has to think of ways to centralize disparate data lying around in different agencies and include all the information into one card, which will make people’s life much easier. One does not have to carry around different cards even for a minor work.  Moreover, data safety is a huge issue globally. Countries are now opting for block chain technology to secure their vital data. This has been touted as the safest way to store data. The Oli government must look into the option and see when such system could be introduced. It is time for the government to take the issue of data storage and its use with the rigor it deserves. 

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