April 2012

“Biometric is one of the oldest identification technologies”

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Ravi S Saxena, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of Gujarat, in an exclusive interview with egov

Tell us about your vision for the state’s IT department.

Gujarat State’s IT department has to eventually become the anchor department for change management. It is because the entire document management, workflow as well as delivery of services to citizens have to be done electronically by each department. The business process re-engineering to achieve the above goals is also a part of the NEGP. We are planning an IT Investment Region (ITIR), and developing a new policy for setting up the Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs), following the policies declared by the Government of India.

How would you rate Gujarat’s response to e-Governance?

Gujarat has always been at the forefront in e-Governance. We set up Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN) way back in 2001. Today this is the only end to end IP-based network across the state and the largest in this part of the country. It covers almost 35000 nodes. We have almost 50,000 mail addresses on our Exchange Server in the active directory format. All districts and talukas in Gujarat are covered vertically and horizontally with the same network. The state has a robust State Data Centre. Then there is eGram, a VSAT network that covers all villages of Gujarat through broadband and makes it easier for state government to provide e-Governance solutions to the citizens. The state is in the process of setting up SSDG and MSDG. Almost every state government’s department has been advised to deploy ERP kind of applications with GIS basis because we are very strong in GIS. In fact the Gujarat State Geospatial Data Infrastructure has been appreciated at all levels and even by the Planning Commission of India.

In today’s scenario where there is a big boom in IT, what are the main challenges being faced by the officials in the position of IT secretary?

The major challenge before the IT Secretary in any state is to transfer knowledge and information to other departments about the latest developments in the field of Information Technology, particularly with relevance to e-Governance. Apart from information, it is also the responsibility of IT secretary to have a unified database, accessible through a common robust infrastructure, which is functioning round-the-clock without problem. We have, in Gujarat, evolved a structure of policies which has come a long way to help us in taking the integrated vision of deployment of e-Governance in the State Government. This is achieved by way of setting up IT committees in each department that in turn are closely monitored by the IT department.

Many government departments and schemes have started using biometrics for identification of beneficiaries and users. What kind of systems do you think are best suited for biometric identification?

Biometric is one of the oldest identification technologies existing in the country. Indians have been authenticating documents ink and thumbprint for a long time. However, with the advancement in technology, the ink is replaced by electronic and optical identifiers. We have found that when it comes to ensuring end to end delivery of benefits with transparency, Biometrics Identification and Integrated Applications works well. Gujarat has experimented with Biometric Identification system in various applications like Public Distribution System, gArvi – vehicle registration system, eDhara – Land Records, Student teacher attendance, City Survey and many more. We are even planning to have it integrated with our Home Department Security Application.

Do you think biometric systems are more secure than other physical and identity card based systems of verification?

Physical and identity card based systems of verification are very primary level technologies. These days, barcodes and QR codes are becoming common in all sectors including retail. However, biometric system is are much more secure. They provide a better system of identification. UIDAI is a good example of an initiative that utilises Biometric Technologies in the best possible way. Once we are in a position to make our applications UIDAI-compliant, we will be in a better position to understand the challenges and advantages.

Should more biometric solutions be made available to our police forces for quick and accurate processing of individuals and detection of suspects?

Biometric has Physiological and Behavioural Technology Aspects. Both have many dimensions of individual identification per se. Forensics laboratories are already utilising these solutions but simple applications integrated with devices which can provide intelligence to conventional way of detecting the suspects should be available to crime detection forces in critical and sensitive regions of the country.

Tell us about the State Data Centres that have already been built in your state or are in the process of being built.

Gujarat is the first state to go for a State Data Centre project in 2008 along with 3 mini data centre setups. Gujarat SDC is based on a best of breed solution, which makes up the core compute, storage, security, management infrastructure with consolidation and optimisation as a major part of operations maintaining 99.991 percent average uptime. Today these data centres act as a convergence point between open unsecured domain and sensitive government environment. Moreover, they enable departments to host their services/applications on a common infrastructure which ensures efficient management and optimum resources utilisation.

These days we are having the issue of malicious content on the Internet. In your opinion what are the best ways of tackling this problem?

Cyber attacks and malicious content are the big challenge areas when it comes to security of Sensitive Government Data. CERT-in reported that more than 1400 Indian Websites were defaced and nearly 300 websites were compromised with malicious content during January 2012. Proactive measures, preventive Mechanism, Quick Response Features with Internet Facility Policy should be deployed along with latest OS/Network patch updates for tackling these problems caused by intruders. Moreover, it is advisable to have State Web Cell for centralised monitoring of the web content and security measures.

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