explained | India moves towards ePassports: Government plans ambitious expansion of digital network and passport offices

This will lead to faster delivery of passports and allow for verification of applicants and rapid tracing in emergency situations.

What is the latest agreement between MEA and TCS regarding Indian passports? What can we expect from the PSP-V2.0?

The story so far: On January 7, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with Tata Consultancy Services Limited for the second phase of the Passport Seva (PSP) program, one of the Indian government’s many Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). The latest deal will facilitate the next phase of PSP called PSP-V2.0. The billion dollar deal will focus on faster delivery of passports to citizens and create more effective integration between different wings of government like the MEA and the local police network who can work in harmony for the verification of applicants and rapid tracing in emergency situations.

What is the feature of the new passport initiative program?

Current passport application and processing continues to involve manual sections and these are expected to go digital in the new phase. The Foreign Office has stated that PSP-V2.0 is a “continuation and improvement” of PSP-V1.0. An official statement said the new initiative aims to create a digital platform that is “transparent, more accessible and reliable” and that it is supported by a trained workforce. This will create a cutting-edge digital ecosystem, revise existing processes, and integrate various wings of government involved in issuing passports. The issue of training employees in the new process has not yet started, however, which is expected to take some time.

What will be the nature of the partnership with TCS?

According to the MEA, Tata Consultancy Services will provide “support functions” such as “citizen interface, technology backbone, call centers, training and change management”. The government will exercise “all sovereign and security-related functions” in the passport issuance process. Strategic assets such as data centers, database and application software will be owned by the government and access would be controlled by biometrics. The program also plans to have a data center, disaster recovery center and secure government repository that would be networked with all Seva Kendras passports and Seva Kendras postal passports (POPSK). The global system would be connected to all Indian diplomatic missions abroad and would enable surveillance and oversight through a state-of-the-art Network Operations Center and Security Operations Center (SOC). “The program has recently been connected to over 176 Indian missions / posts through the Global Passport Seva (GPSP) program, providing seamless delivery of passport services to the Indian Diaspora,” MEA said in a statement.

However, public-private partnership is needed to address the problem of the lack of government workers in passport offices across the country. The announcement highlighted that the government is preparing to launch Seva Kendras in all Lok Sabha constituencies across the country. But, according to employees in the Passport division, there remain a large number of vacancies in government positions in these offices and a full spectrum of “control and supervision” will require more staff on the government side. Despite the government’s ambitious expansion program, these vacancies have yet to be filled. all 36 existing passport offices do not yet have a passport officer.

What will be the new features of the PSP-V2.0?

The new program is expected to feature a technological upgrade, including the use of the latest biometric technologies, artificial intelligence, advanced data analysis, chat-bot, automatic response, natural language processing and activation from the cloud. The last feature of the PSP-V2.0 will be the issuance of the new generation of passports called ePassports. By virtue of this, new and renewed passports will be equipped with an electronic chip that will contain all the biometric information about the applicants. Sanjay Bhattacharyya, MEA secretary in charge of passport services, said in a social media post that next-generation ePassports will facilitate the immigration process across the world and also increase digital security for holders of documents. passports.

How will the new ePassports differ from the current passports?

Current passports are scanned at immigration counters to reveal the citizen’s travel record using the same document and the electronic passport should also perform the same function. However, unlike current passports, ePassport users will have physical storage of their biometric data in a chip, which will reduce the risk of data leakage.

Is the public-private partnership flawless?

The MEA-TCS collaboration has been part of the passport process since 2008-2010 and has helped to increase the digitization of the complex process which requires multiple stakeholders across the spectrum of the vast government network. However, it is understood that more harmony between them the two wings of public and private workers will help citizens to apply for and acquire passports without difficulties. like delays. and denials.

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