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India makes biometrics mandatory for all e-gov projects

Cloud's just 'recommended', for now, as local industry plans 50 per cent growth by 2025

India's issued three “Guidance Notes” outlining its government's policies for procuring software and entering into alliances and running RFPs.

The new Model RFP Templates and Guidance Notes for Implementing Services (PDF), RFP Templates and Guidance Notes for Consulting Services (PDF) and Model and Model RFP Templates and Guidance Notes for Public Private Partnerships (PDF) spell out what India expects from those it hires to work on projects under its “National e-Governance Plan” to make all government services available electronically.

The “Implementing Services” guide spells out the most interesting bits: the nation says biometric authentication is now mandatory, with fingerprints, faces and irises all acceptable. So is compliance with various Indian government standards aimed at allowing data sharing and interoperability of systems among government agencies.

The insistence on biometrics will cement the role of India's Aadhaar authentication system, thought to have records on more than one billion people and to therefore represent an extraordinary honeypot. Indian courts have recently ruled than the nation's government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for all authentication that touches on government matters, such as opening bank accounts.

The document also re-states India's policy that government work should always use open source software when possible and that any attempts to use proprietary software need a very good excuse.

Cloud gets a mention, but only as a “recommended” requirement so that different government agencies can use e-governance applications in software-as-a-service mode. India runs a government cloud and the expectation is that e-gov applications should be happy running there, or in another cloud.

However, India is yet to release its cloud policy, so The Implementing Services guide therefore notes that it will need to to be considered in the light of that document, when it emerges. As the national cloud strategy is designed as “governance mechanism to ensure proliferation of Cloud in government” it seems sensible to imagine that in the near future cloud will be harder to dodge.

Also Open APIs and use of W3C accessibility standards are mandataory.

India has released the three guidance documents to advance its Digital India initiative by (hopefully) standardising the way projects are scoped, procured and run. The documents emerged on the same day as new forecasts from India's National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM, the industry group that represents technology concerns to government and promotes them abroad.

The new data predicts that India's technology industries will create another 2.5m to 3.0m jobs by the year 2025, on top of the 3.9m directly employed today. Of those jobs, 600,000 were created in the last three years, but about 400,000 of those were in mobile phone manufacturing. ®

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