When the Government of India announced plans to roll out the social web in 2018, it made a point of emphasising the need for privacy in its rollout.
The Government of Madhya Pradesh, a state with a population of about 3.5 million people, had already implemented a web portal for residents to access their government services, such as water, electricity and toll collection.
A month later, the Centre announced that all state governments would be required to use the platform, and that it would have a ‘no-strings-attached’ requirement for users to provide their identity details and provide an email address.
The rollout was supposed to be done over three months, with the first phase scheduled to begin on November 12.
However, the date has now been pushed back to December 19.
It is now likely that the government, in its new omnibus bill, will be seeking to remove the requirement for Aadhaar enrolment.
“The government will announce its final decision about the rollout of the new social media portal and services in a public session in the month of December.
This will take into account all the factors and requirements for this task.
The government would have to ensure that the public has the right to participate in the project, and also that all the necessary permissions are given to the people,” a senior official told The Hindu.
“In order to make the launch and delivery of the platform seamless and efficient, we would be seeking a final notification from the government on the date and time of the launch,” he added.
The government’s plan to roll-out the social network, called Aadhaar-enabled digital portal (A-PESA), was welcomed by privacy experts and others, who said that the move was a good first step towards building trust between citizens and government services.
However, some privacy experts said that it will be hard for the government to justify removing the requirement, since the process of enrolment is far more complicated and expensive than using a bank account or other services.
The first phase of Aadhaar-based digital portal was slated to begin in December, with all states set to go live by the end of January 2019.
In its report to the Cabinet on the implementation of the project on September 19, the Department of Telecommunications and Information Technology (DoTIT) had said that Aadhaar was being used to enrol more than 10 million people in all sectors.
Aadhaar is the unique identification number that is linked to a specific identity, which can be linked to one’s bank account.
It was launched by the Government in 2016, and has so far been rolled out in about 40 Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.