Sunday, March 15, 2009

Achieving the BJP's BHAG

I am just done with going through the BJP's IT vision document and this is what I could quickly see as big promises:-
*National ID card to merge all the other ID cards together.
*10mn Students to be given laptops for Rs. 10,000. All those who cannot afford it will be given interest-free loans for the same.
*Broadband internet in every town and village with unlimited upload and download at roughly Rs. 75 per month - the cost of cable TV.
*Mobile penetration to be taken to 1bn subscribers
*Take Internet users across nation to 1bn.
* All People below poverty line to be given smart phones.
* The entire country to be banked.
* Entire country to have basic health insurance and hospitalization to be cashless.
*Every school to be IT-enabled.

I am impressed. This is a great vision to have and I am happy that L.K. Advani (BJP) has had the courage to articulate this Big Hairy Audacious Goal at the risk of sounding like Don Quixote. I think that all political parties should be asked to immediately state their own IT vision and I hope that they will all come out with such BHAGs.

On my part, I would like to suggest to the BJP a few things as a CEO and one who would know the practical problems to implement the above vision. My suggestions rest on two big strategies + 1 comment :-
*Make Mobile and a 10-finger-Biometric national ID the key pillars of your strategy - the other parts of your vision will be easier to play out if you get the National ID and the Mobile penetration parts done.
*Leverage the power of retail distribution that the mobile operators, the banks, schools, hospitals and the corporate sector can provide you.
Comment: Set a BHAD - Big Hairy Audacious Deadline - 12 months to get 400mn Indians to get a national identity and 2 years to get 1bn Indians a mobile phone and a national ID.

Now how do you tactically get to meet this goal ?
*Take a really capable person and make him the head of the National ID project. My suggestion - Prof. Jhunjhunwala from IIT Madras.
*Give him 3 months to put together a frame work for the National ID and to invite open feedback through the WWW.
*Another 3 months to build the infrastructure for the same.
*Change perception - The NID is not a 'card' but an application that can be installed on any smart card.
*Take the mobile phone numbering systems of all operators, all their KYC details and nationalize them immediately. All mobile numbers and the databases, All KYC documents and scanned versions of supporting evidence will become property of the NID (National ID Dept.). This is anyhow needed to ensure number portability. Similarly take KYC and personal information lying with all banks licensed to operate in the country and give them a deadline of 3 months to convert them all to digital and 'submit' it to the NID Department in a prescribed format.
*Legislate that all SIM cards issued should support the download of a 'smart national ID card' and the same should be at no cost to the government.

Now for the easier stuff. You have a national ID framework, you have the base level of information through what is already in the telco and bank network - how do you ensure the final mile compliance - The stick policy, namely:--
*Make it mandatory for the telcos to ID all present mobile subscribers and make generation of a national ID mandatory (if you don't have one) before you can get a new connection. This is an easy task for the telco. Keep in mind that he already has all information apart from the fingerprint scan of his customer. Keep also in mind that the longest time when a mobile customer is not engaged with a telco touch point is 1 month - in the case of a post paid subscriber who pays his bill monthly. Most prepaid users (80% of the base) recharge their phones 2-3 times in a month. Give the telcos 3 months and after which if your NID is not linked to your phone numbe, it will switch off.
*Make all banks and stock brokers also conform to the National ID within 3 months. If you don't have the national ID linked to your bank account, you cannot take money out of your bank account. All new account holders to create ID before they can operate their bank account.
*Make all educational qualifications linked to the National ID.
*Make all hospital admissions and issuances of birth certificates linked to the national ID.
*Give companies a 3 month period to ensure that all their staff members have been IDed - either through the bank or the telecom channel and after that make it illegal to pay anyone who has not got an ID. All salaries to non-Identifiable people will be mandatorily deposited into a government account and can be claimed by the person only after he creates his national ID.
*Lastly, Do away with all other IDs- PAN, Election Card, Ration Card, Director's ID, Driving License, Passport etc. and migrate all systems to be only based on NID. That means you cannot pay your taxes or claim a tax refund if you don't have an NID, you cannot register land or sell land if you don't have a national ID, you cannot give a driving test if you don't have a national ID, you cannot vote in the gram panchayat elections if you don't have a national ID etc.

That's it. I would be surprised if we implement the above and are not able to ID the entire country within 3 years. If we do do this, it will mean India has built a solid foundation on which to catch up with the rest of the world.

Disclaimer: My views above may sound far fetched. I feel they are practical and we need to move with speed as a country.

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