How significant are the e-governance projects for citizens of the country?
E-governance is all about providing services by the Government to the citizens in an electronic manner. It brings down the cost and increases the efficiency. It further increases the transparency within the Government system. The data can be used for policy formation in the future. So, there are several advantages of providing the citizens the facilities through e-governance.
How has been the journey of NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited?
The company started in 1996 as CSD – Central Securities Depository, and we continued with our operations for about 8 – 9 years. After we had established CSD, we thought about other activities which could be undertaken. CSD was basically a Database Management company with transitional efficiency, and we realised that Tax Information Network was one of the projects that could be undertaken in order to make the most of our expertise and ability. As a CSD, the company developed its expertise in managing large and critical databases with transitional efficiency driven by Information and Communication technologies (ICT).
Second, such project was Central Recordkeeping Agency (CRA) for National Pension System (NPS). Today, we are a 10-year-old company in this particular domain. Details of people registered with NPS are stored with us. Further, we are working very closely with the Governments and are the only company to issue PAN Cards and Aadhaar Cards on behalf of the Government of India. For Aadhaar Cards, we do handle the entire registration process as Registrar for Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
As NSDL e-Gov had demonstrated its nationwide reach and expertise in implementing a turnkey project, it encouraged the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to appoint NSDL e-Gov to set up Tax Information Network (TIN) in 2003.
After setup of TIN, in 2004, NSDL e-Gov was identified by the Pension Regulator (PFRDA) to undertake the key responsibility of the Central Recordkeeping Agency (CRA) for the newly introduced National Pension System (NPS). The complete subscriber database for NPS is managed by us.
Which other projects you are working on currently?
We are working on number of other projects. NSDL e-Gov has now been shortlisted as the GSP (GST Suvidha Provider) by GSTN (GST Network) for implementing GST across the country. We are also e-sign service provider. E-sign service is an online electronic signature service that can facilitate an Aadhaar holder to digitally sign a document. NSDL e-Gov is empanelled by Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) to provide e-sign Services to Application Service Providers (ASPs).
If somebody wants to file a GST Return, it can simply be done by using the facility of the e-sign. Besides, the person can also go to one of our facilitation centres and can file the return. We have about 10,000 facilitation centres. Further, we also have offline facility to file GST Return. Besides these projects, we also have National Judicial Reference System (NJRS) where we have collated all the income tax judgements and appeals for the income tax department and created a very powerful search engine. These search results work as references for Income Tax Officers across the country. The system is also envisaged to assist in operational matters such as tracking status of appeals, setting reminders, etc. and assist in speedy appeal disposal, which will help the Income Tax Department in increasing their tax revenue.
How do you ensure the security of the data stored within your systems?
We have our own servers. We have a complete team of data security experts. Further, we do have a disaster recovery site. The data replication takes place at both the sites – the main site and the recovery site. The data is always transmitted in encrypted form. It is not possible for third party to read the data. What are your views on Cloudbased technologies? Cloud-based technologies are the future. We believe in it and make the most of Cloud computing in our system. We do have our own cloud where we store partial data of ours.
Please brief us on your project management capabilities?
We call ourselves MSP – Manage Service Provider. We provide end-toend solutions to governments. We assist our clients from conceptualisation to implementation – be it hardware, software or applications development, or any other infrastructure requirement. We are also running 24X7 call centres. We have developed expertise in developing greenfield projects. We have also worked on some other projects i.e., record keeping of National Pension System which was already initiated by the Government and was present in physical form – we digitised it later.
Which are the most exciting initiatives among all you have undertaken so far?
Aadhaar authentication and e-KYC Services, e-sign which is an online electronic signature service that can facilitate an Aadhaar holder to digitally sign a document and GST Suvidha Provider are some of the services which have been very exciting for us.
Please brief us on your Vidya Lakshmi and Vidhyasaarathi projects?
Vidya Lakshmi is a first of its kind portal for students seeking education Loan. This portal has been developed under the guidance of Department of Financial Services (Ministry of Finance), Department of Higher Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development) and Indian Banks Association (IBA). The portal has been developed and being maintained by NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited. Students can view, apply and track the education loan applications to banks anytime, anywhere by accessing the portal. The portal also provides linkages to National Scholarship Portal. While, Vidhyasaarathi project is to bring together all the stakeholders on a single online platform so that students can avail various educational finance schemes.
What are challenges which might hamper the growth of digitisation in the country?
We are going at a good speed. There are, however, several challenges. We have huge population. There are so many departments. When you talk about numbers – everything in crores, nothing is in thousands or hundreds. Second challenge is the complex nature of government departments and to streamline and digitise the data – especially the data which is already available in physical forms.