Friday, 5 March 2010

Testing time for UID project

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the ambitious project that aims to give every citizen an identification card, is about to launch a series of tests to demonstrate its feasibility as a precursor to the actual rollout later this year.

The project, which received an outlay of Rs 1,900 crore in the budget, will kick off the so-called proof of concept projects in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka this month. The tests will parse different aspects of technology including biometric systems, security, data centre linkages and servers and address key issues such as duplication and fraud. At least 60,000 people in these states will be covered by the tests before they lead to a prototype sometime in July.

UIDAI, headed by tech czar Nandan Nilekani, had a budget of Rs 120 crore for this fiscal. But keeping in mind the greater costs involved in the rollout, the finance minister has spiked its budget by over 15 times for the next fiscal. The money will be used to set up registrars, enrollment costs, servers, data centres, a central data repository in Delhi, a data backup in Bangalore, regional offices and for other related activities.

UIDAI aims to provide a unique 16-digit number ID card to at least 600 million residents over the next five years starting from August.

The agency, whose regional offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad are already functional, will set up six more in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Gauwhati and Ranchi. These developments come in the midst of the agency’s expansionary moves. UIDAI will add 11 experts from the industry for functions spanning HR, knowledge management, process and operations soon.

The experts will be part of the core project management team comprising chief architect Pramod Varma, technology head Srikant Nadhmuni and Shankar Maruwada who leads UIDAI’s demand generation and marketing activities. With the new hires, UIDAI’s total workforce will increase to 30, or 10% of the planned 300 employees it will eventually have.

UIDAI also roped in Ernst & Young (E&Y ) as consultant last week. E&Y will help in formulating a business strategy and revenue model for the project. “With E&Y’s appointment, the project will now move faster towards meeting the August 2010-February 2011 commitment for issuing the first set of numbers,” said a person familiar with the development who requested anonymity.

E&Y will give a road map for the Central ID Data Repository (CIDR), select a managed service provider and help in related activities.