Smart Cards and Citizens

I came across smart cards as part of a market study I was doing at work. It came up as such a large potential application that I could not but stop myself from looking up what are the end markets it addresses – everything from medical records to access cards to unique identification cards and intelligent passports came up in the analysis (of course, not to mention the super high volume mobile phone SIM card).

Now, in an economy where creating/converting leads as well as retaining existing customers is a huge uphill task, such a large recession-proof opportunity, especially in India, with large and small players like Infosys, TCS, Bartronics etc. in the fray, is sure to cause some high-wire drama akin to the 3G spectrum allocation.

What remains to be seen is whether the massive citizen database collection and technology deployment for UIDs, which has been planned to be completed in 3 years, is accomplished on time or results in another sham. Throw Nandan Nilekani into the mix and we have an interesting twist to the story.

However, amidst all this talk, what I never heard anyone mention is how will it affect me as a citizen? I mean, first during the collection of data, will I be re-checked and re-verified for all the different kinds of IDs that I have from the Government? If you don’t do this, how will you know you are not issuing a smart card to a fake identity? What if a person has three of the 5 or 6 which are going to be put on this smart card, will he/she get an upgrade? Can he/she apply for it later, will that be a one-stop shop? And, after the smart card is issued, what if I lose it – all my identities gone? Will I get a replacement quickly? Are we taking power away from several demi-gods and providing it to another one? I would definitely like to know the answers.

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