GS Paper III  Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

Digital lockers: Govt starts licensing private players, govt agencies

What’s Happening-

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has started the process of licensing private players and other government agencies to operate digital lockers for storage of various documents issued by the government and its bodies. 
  • Till now, only the government-operated digital locker is available for storing important documents, using Aadhaar identification to log in.

Key Points discussed were:

  • According to the latest data, the government-operated DigiLocker had 47.72 lakh users, with a repository of more than 67 lakh documents.
  • Nearly two years after DigiLocker was launched in July 2015, the Centre has issued norms to let private players to obtain licenses that would allow them to operate digital lockers.
  • The applicant company should have minimum Rs 5 crore in paid-up capital, and a minimum net-worth of Rs 50 crore. Furthermore, equity stake of NRIs, FIIs or foreign companies in the entity should not exceed 49 per cent of its total capital.
  • The applications for licenses would be submitted to the Digital Locker Authority, which the Centre set up in July 2016, to administer and manage the Digital Locker initiative.
  • Post application by potential Digital Locker Service Providers, their services would be tested for quality and certified, after which an audit of the applicant’s infrastructure would be conducted before issuing the license.

Benefit

  • The licenses would allow private digital locker service providers to offer a number of services, which include-
  • Setting up of infrastructure to provide Digital Locker Portal with in-built gateway functionality to provide allow citizens to sign up via web based portal or mobile app; allow accessing of documents from issuers using document references available in the Digital Locker account; and allowing requesters to access issued documents by providing document references.

Key Points discussed were:

Why is this problematic?

  • It will be able to collect more specific data on citizens.
  • For one, allowing private companies to use the Aadhaar number shows that the government’s stated aims of Aadhaar are misleading.
  • Both in the Supreme Court and in Parliament, the government has pushed for the use of Aadhaar as an instrument of welfare delivery. It justified passing Aadhaar legislation as a Money Bill by emphasising its importance to its welfare schemes. But as the case of Swabhimaan shows, Aadhaar’s uses clearly go well beyond what the Bill’s preamble describes as the “targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Two, biometrics and unique identification numbers are a qualitatively new form of private information. As such, they bring unknown risks. India does not have a privacy law, and a law defining the use of biometrics and unique numbers is yet to be created. 
  • Three, companies like Swabhimaan would be in a position to construct databases of their own. Take TrustID. When it starts retaining Aadhaar numbers, and adds ratings to them, it creates a database of its own, which amounts to creating profiles of people.
  • When the government first proposed the idea to open up the service to private players a year back, the move raised a number of security concerns.
  • To tackle these concerns, the IT ministry had issued norms for a private digital locker service provider. As per the norms, the service provider would have to get its operations, including its security policy, audited every year by an independent auditor.

GS Paper II –International Relations

Scotland seeks to exit U.K.

What’s Happening-
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will ask the Scottish Parliament for authority for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Key Points discussed were:

 Nicola Sturgeon said the following:

  • “Brexit has made change inevitable… the choice I believe Scotland should have should be what kind of change we want,”
  • While the 2014 referendum on independence was pegged as a “once in a generation” vote by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, the issue of independence resurfaced in the wake of last June’s referendum, when Scotland voted overwhelmingly (62%) to remain in the EU.
  • “U.K. membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish government, or indeed with other devolved administrations — leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit,”

Impact of Referendum:

  • A second referendum would be “divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time”.

Background-
A referendum on  from the United Kingdom took place on 18 September 2014.
The referendum question, which voters answered with “Yes” or “No”, was “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The “No” side won, with 55.3% voting against independence and 44.7% voting in favour. The turnout of 84.6% was the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since the introduction of .
The , setting out the arrangements for the referendum, was passed by the  in November 2013, following an agreement between the  and the .
To pass, the independence proposal required a simple majority. With some exceptions, all  (EU) or  citizens resident in Scotland aged sixteen years or over could vote.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 7