By David Bicknell
Two of the BRICS countries are wrestling with project management challenges as overambitious IT projects face an uncertain future.
India and Russia, which are two of the emerging so-called ‘BRICS’ – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – nations have implemented large identity card schemes which are now facing implementation hurdles.
In India, an ambitious biometric identification scheme for 1.2 billion people faces is likely to have to be redesigned if it is to survive.
The Asia Times says the Indian government has budgeted US$603 million to give a 12-digit number to each of 600 million residents by March 14, 2014, in the first two phases of the project, dubbed “Aadhaar”, which means “foundation” or “support.”
The Asia Times says the Indian government had asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project to enroll 200 million people by January 2012, in a first phase.
The UID number, which is set to prove identity, though not citizenship, would be supported by biometric devices such as facial recognition systems, eye and fingerprint scanners. However, a committee in the Indian Parliament has questioned its practicability and credibility.
The Standing Committee for Finance also challenged the legality, quality of technology and potential misuse of the UID information collected over the past two years.
The project had “no clarity of purpose,” observed the 48-page report from 53 parliamentarians, “and it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”.
It concluded: “In view of the afore-mentioned concerns and apprehensions about the UID scheme, particularly considering the contradictions and ambiguities within the Government on its implementation as well as implications, the Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in its present form. The data already collected by the UIDAI may be transferred to the National Population Register (NPR), if the Government so chooses. The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament.”
Meanwhile in Russia, according to the Moscow Times, a universal electronic card is facing delays, with a rollout scheduled for this month now being pushed to January of 2013.
The card – a combination of an electronic ID, driver’s licence, car insurance certificate, ATM card and migration document, among other possible functions – is the result of a project the government estimates will cost as much as 150 billion rubles to 170 billion rubles ($5.2 billion to $5.6 billion) to put in the hands of every citizen.
Limited initial use of the card was scheduled to take place this year, but the law that set up the project was amended in December to allow for a one-year delay.
The Moscow Times reported that the program will begin to function next year and that this year will be spent organising sites that will receive applications for the card. Application sites are expected to be set up at post offices, banks, and other locations.
A ministry spokesman confirmed that infrastructure for the project is just beginning to be created, and only four out of 83 regions having begun work on it.
“The delay in starting the project is related to issues around interagency cooperation and underdeveloped infrastructure in some regions,” said Yulia Kuchkina, a spokeswoman for the Universal Electronic Cards company (UEC). “Pilot cards are being issued — with employees of government agencies and ministries becoming the first users. In Moscow test cards have been received by employees of the Moscow Department of Information Technology,” she added.
Mail Online India: Setback for Planning Commission as Prime Minister bats for UID
This IT project (for face identity cards) is a pure example of a pet project and its failure is a pure example of governmental inefficiency when it comes to project management.
One of the more surprising victims of the UIDAI debacle is The Economist. Pressed into service to help the PR battle, they foolishly agreed. It will take some time for the magazine’s reputation to be restored.