Dr. B. Sambamurthy, Director, IDBRT, at CSCS Consultation
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The Identity project emerged as a result of our dissatisfaction at the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India.
Over the past three years we have conducted numerous field visits in seven Indian states.These visits include numerous video-conversations, some short and others very long, with a diverse number of those who were involved with this entire process of participating in the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance. These are interviews with people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, with district-level Panchayat and other officials, with numerous State government bureaucrats, with private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce. Conversations are often long, spontaneous and deliberately unstructured: and the focus is mainly on a vérité style using amateur video.
Some key issues that we shortlisted for detailed inquiry were issues of migrants, both domestic and across international borders, homelessness in cities, and the financially excluded. Each of these areas was discussed in considerable detail at major public consultations held in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, in partnership with the CSDS, the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and the Urban Research and Policy Programme Initiative of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. All videos of all presentations made at these events are also available here.
CSCS also has an extensive text archives of material on the field as a whole, available on http://eprints.cscsarchives.org
I am an neither a historian nor a social activist, that kind of stuff. I have been in banking for about 35-36 years, and I lived in villages for a number of years, and seen the evolution for the last 25 years. A couple of things I think I just want give my perspective on: about the technology. I feel that there is nothing like good technology and bad technology. it's about good people and bad people, because there are some bad people who are probably going to be the cause of some of the problems. And the role of technology is already in bad hands, so if there is no technology in the hands of good people, so then as (he) said about history I think we need to go back.
It's about the good people and the bad people it is not about the good technology and the bad technology. At least having been in this Institute I have not found a single piece of technology that is bad, but a number of issues come to us which feature bad people. The second thing the fundamental thing is- when you talk of finance - about identity management. This identity management from an operation prespective, is neutral to identity management by politicians. Yes, when you want a framework for Identity management, there is a risk that the it gives you a kind of platform for identity politics as well. Does it mean that we give up on this identity management?
Then, the third thing they say is that we want a corruption-less society, I think my vote is for that 100%. I think we also used to have those kinds of goals in banking, but coming to reality we make 'less' as prefix, less paper less cash. I would not like to say this far as the Aadhaar series is concerned so I would like to leave it here. The reality is that even today, when I joined the banking industry in 1973, we spoke about a paperless office, but it has not happened. The realistic approach is that you can't have less paper, less cash, but this is also where digitizaiton happens. The third thing is that there is this perception that with the advent of automation, we are all reduced to numbers. But now we have reached a second phase of automation, where we talk of the power of analytics, where the numbers help us understand things. I think we have reached the next place where we need to understand.
Some of our professors have been researching about the power of analaytics to understand the numbers better, where the faces (can return). We don't have to worry about the faceless aspect of technology, there is now a understanding aspect of technology. Today with the use of analytics, probably one will be able to understand the financial behaviour is can be also used (to understand) other things as well. The new subject that is coming up in the area of computerization is to overcome the issue of facelessness.
And then I would not like technology to the set the boundaries for anything: it should be the process that should set boundaries. I think we have an approach where technology will stop all the problems. In fact technology will probably help define clearer objectives - I am not sure of even this - but we it should be the process (that should help) to help set the boundaries because in our anxiety to implement the technology the process is not given due attention, so as so many say, new technology plus old technology, NT plus O they say it ends up in EOO Expensive Old Organization. Similarly if you don't take care of the process you will end up as an Expensive Old Organization.
Based on what I have learnt from the speakers, I just wanted to reaise my points, because I am a part of history but I am not a historian. Let me put across the fundamental perspective for our thinking: what is 6 lakh 20 thousand villages is we have 6 million people, after 100 years of banking, we are at about just 40,000 applicants. So how many centuries it needs (t get to the rest) I do not know, to cover these 6 lakh 20 thousand villages if you do not use digitization. In my mind there is absolutly no alternative except the use of technology, to cover this 600 million people. What is the cost and the operational fesability itself (is what needs to be discussed): this I think that the fundamental premise on which I would like to share.
What is the business proposition? We should not lose sight of that, in In the process of understanding issues of technology, we have also issues of pricing: we should not lose sight of the fundamental business case for the finanacial implementation that is improving of livelihoods.
Yes we have some issues here and there: and all that, so in business cases how do you improve the livelihood, how do you use technology to do that.
In my mind the PPP does does result in financial inclusion. That is another business aspect to life. I should say we are only in the transition process, where probably you hvae some doors that you can (open) to population and (tell them) that we are going to have an inclusive society.
I don't think many of the villagers are happy about being dependent on the doors: you should ask them, they also want to have dignified living on account ofbtheir own health. So the use of technology to my mind is in a simple sentence to improve the livelihood, fi the technology is not serving that, it is not worth it, whether it is god people or bad people running it.
So how do you do that? I don't look at the pieces: whether we should have smart cards or we should have mobile banking, we hould have internet banking, we should have biometric verification, or we should have any kind of these technology pieces.
So we've got a lot of technology pieces in the market floating around for the last several years, again all these pieces should be put together to probably to contribute to the mix (to create) one, a business model and two, an operating model. So I think that's where we need to get the technology pieces together.
This is important because there are some technology inititative that are part of the government where there are also technology initative on part of corporates, private sectors, but now the question is that can we stitch an operating model? Basically to improve the livelihood of these people.
And then the fundamental thing in any operating model is a secure reliable authentication system. There are cases probably where he says he works for one week but does authentication for 2 weeks. So the fundamental requierment is that can we have the best authentication system, and then again you can only depend on technology you need to be backed with process.
The simple thing would have been, it should generate a recipt and a hysical signature or a thumb impression as well. So they can work out linking the roles and the banking.
I will come a little later to that. So the whole issue is that how do you bring together all the pieces of technology and all the operating processes together which is secure, which is reliable and which is cost effective.
Which can reach all these 6 lakh 20 thousand villages and people. And then what are the challenges of this technology.
We have so one model of course is that we have the branchless banking model: this model released from 2006 onwards when we had small pilots - we have been talking about pilots for the last several years - and when are we going to see the full-grown system, the establishment of the system in the villages?
Why is it that we are not able to scale up into full blown models and why is it that we are still stuck on small issues: I think that is one issue that technolgy will be able to provide us with the answer.
One issue is that again we have built a lot of science, in a lot of silos we have got a lot of blind spots so how do we fill these blind spots. That is where some processes are requiered to back up the technology.
Taking the example we have, there are silos: of masquerades, and a silo of bank accounts, that is a blind spot. How often do people interact with bankers, instead of interacting among yourselves: it has to reach bank staff. Then of course the integration we need to do.
To me the solutions is that the vendors should take responsibility, and co-creation could address a lot of these issues. Co-creation just not with banks but also with users. How much of co-creation is taking place?
So that the products we talk of (are realized), that is one issue. And then big-bank inclusion, can we focus on independent innovations? We have been speaking of financial inclusion technology forthe past 5-6 years. Are innovations taking place? Is there an incremental innovation?
I am sure that incremental innvoation from banks can address a lot of the blind spots and make the system more efficient. Any technology has to set up four-five issues if it has to be sustainable. One of the reasons or why banks say they cannot reach all six lakh twenty thousand villages is because of the high cost. Brick and mortar is a very high cost: very high fixed cost.
There are high costs and high fixed costs. Technology can really make it cost-effective. I remember some of these views agianst the core-banking solution when we used to report outside the banks the charges would be higher for all core-banking (solutions). We are serving technology instead of serving the people.
Second point is security, third thing is reliability.