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According to test results of UIDAI’s biometrics-based Aadhaar project, there could be up to 15,000 false positives for every Indian resident. Moreover, this figure is just for identification and not for verification
The Indian government and its de-facto tagging institution, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), have not only ignored privacy concerns but also ignored sample test results of its pilot project. Both the government and UIDAI have been in such a hurry that they have neglected the basic principle of pilot testing and size of sample. For over 1.2 billion UID numbers, they have used data from just 20,000 people, in pairs, as the sample and have on the basis of the results gone ahead with the UID number through the 'Aadhaar' project.
UIDAI conducted a proof of the concept trial of the Aadhaar project between March and June 2010. In the results, it said, "The matching analysis was done on two sets of 20,000 biometrics, for a total of 40,000. However, the number of comparisons was several orders of magnitude more than 40,000, since each set of fingerprints would be matched against every other set of fingerprints in the data set".
On the false positive identification rate (FPIR), the authority said, "We will look at the point where the FPIR (i.e. the possibility that a person is mistaken to be a different person) is 0.0025%". This means, for every 1 lakh comparisons, there would be two and a half false positives. On a large scale, it means for a population of over 120 crore, there would be 18 lakh crore false positives, or, for every single Indian resident there would be 15,000 false positives! (Click to see the calculations)
David Moss, who spent eight years campaigning against the UK's National ID (NID) card scheme, has questioned the logic of the UIDAI and the government to depending on biometrics to produce the UID number. In a report titled, "India's ID card scheme-drowning in a sea of false positives", Mr Moss said, "those (the FPIR) conclusions do not follow from the evidence reported. Nothing in UIDAI's surprisingly low quality report suggests that it would be feasible to prove that each electronic identity on the Central ID Repository (CIDR) is unique. Not with a billion plus people on the database. Far from it, India can be confident, from the figures quoted in UIDAI's proof of concept trial report, that de-duplication could never be achieved."
Speaking about the UK's NID scheme, Mr Moss said, "There were many problems with the UK scheme. Not just biometrics. But biometrics is the easiest problem to understand and to discuss objectively and on which to reach an agreed decision, as it's quantifiable, there are no difficult value judgements to make and it's just technology. But it's not a very good technology, for, whenever there is a large-scale field trial, mass consumer biometrics prove to be too unreliable for the ID card schemes that depend on them, as opposed to the mere computer modelling exercises favoured by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)."
In addition, there are issues like the reliability of biometric identification for a large population like in India. For the record, no one has ever issued IDs to such a huge population anywhere in the world. And whoever has tried to issue biometrics-based Ids, even for a small size, had to abandon or discard the idea altogether. Like the UK government abolished its NID scheme citing higher costs, impracticality and ungovernable breaches of privacy as reasons for cancelling the NID project.
The UK government spent around £250 million on developing the national ID programme over eight years. However, its abolition means that the government will avoid spending another £800 million over a decade. The NID was launched in July 2002 and as of February 2010, its total costs rose to an estimated £4.5 billion.
For the biometrics-based ID cards, there was one study done at Seoul in Korea. The study was done for ID cards issued for driver licences. It was designed in such a way that by swiping fingers, the drivers were able to access services like paying parking charges and redeeming a ticket. However, after one year, it was found that 5% to 13% users could not use the system. The tests were conducted with four different manufacturers, with drivers being white collar workers and housewives in acceptable quality criteria. In the end the study recommended frequent re-enrolment of users.
According to JT D'Souza, who analysed the pilot study conducted by the UIDAI, given the well-known lacunae in our infrastructure and massive demographics, biometrics as an ID will be a guaranteed failure and result in denial of service. He said, "The sum of false acceptance rate and false rejection rate (EER) reveals only part of the problem, which is rejection or acceptance within a short duration of enrolment. The bigger problem is ageing, including health and environment factors, which causes sufficient change to make biometrics completely unusable and requires very frequent re-enrolment."
The International Biometric Group (IBG) testing also shows that performance can vary drastically within technologies-some fingerprint solutions, for example, had next to no errors during testing, while others rejected nearly 1/3rd of enrolled users. "Most interestingly, the testing shows that over time, many biometric systems are prone to incorrectly rejecting a substantial percentage of users. Verifying a user immediately after enrolment is not highly challenging to biometric systems. However, after six weeks, testing shows that some systems' error rates increase ten-fold," according to the research, consulting and integration firm, which works closely with the biometric industry. The report is titled "Real-World Performance Testing".
Despite all the issues, the UIDAI and the Indian government are pressing hard to implement the UID number scheme across the country. While maintaining that the UID number is not compulsory, both of them are making efforts to make it mandatory using backdoor methods. Nobody is even ready to pause and think about the possible consequences of the failure to identify some poor person from a remote place. It may be a technical glitch for the authorities, but could be a question of life and death for the 'aam admi', who would be denied food and other benefits due to the failure.
"By the time the stillborn (NID) scheme was finally cancelled, the UK's Home Office had lost all credibility, it was totally demoralised and it is now excluded from discussions of the new, and still unspecified, Digital Delivery Identity Assurance project. Having given their unsolicited testimonials to the biometrics industry and its unreliable products, UIDAI will be left to clean up the expensive mess left in India as best they can when 'Aadhaar' is cancelled, while the biometrics industry road-show moves on to the next country and repeats the trick," Mr Moss concluded.
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Subhash Agrawal says Prof Mridula Mukherjee’s association with editorial board of a party publication is not permitted under civil service regulations
An RTI query reveals that the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is guilty of violating civil service conduct rules by virtue of her also being on the editorial board of a Congress party publication. However, as the director is the appellate authority to the information officer, the reply provided is incomplete and evasive, according to an RTI activist.
The query was posted by renowned RTI (right to information) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, and in reply, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) admitted that its director, Professor Mridula Mukherjee, had violated provisions of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules which forbids officials from involvement in any political party or organisation. Prof Mukherjee is a member of the editorial board for a publication that has been published by the Congress party to mark its 125th year.
However, while admitting that Prof Mukherjee is a member of the editorial board of 'Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation', which is in two volumes, the information officer, Purnima Arora, was evasive on the exact nature of the violation of rules. But she admitted that NMML comes under the purview of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules.
It follows as a corollary that, therefore, NMML members are also not allowed to be associated with a party or political organisation, or offer any assistance in any manner. However, when asked about whether Prof Mukherjee has violated any service by-rules, the reply was evasive. "The query of the applicant is not covered under the definition of 'information' as given in section 2(f) of the RTI Act 2005," Ms Arora said. Citing a precedent, she said that giving advice or making suggestions to an enquirer falls under the scope of the Act.
Ms Arora also stated that no records are available of any action taken against Prof Mukherjee and that neither has any explanation been sought from her, nor has she volunteered any.
But, Mr Agrawal also cites a precedent that indicates a liberal interpretation of the Act for public welfare. He said, "Honourable Mr Justice S Ravindra Bhatt of Delhi High Court in the matter Bhagat Singh vs CIC (W.P.(C) No.3114/2007) has held that the Right to Information Act being a right-based enactment is akin to a welfare measure and as such should receive liberal interpretation."
Mr Agrawal has thus requested that the information authorities should answer his queries. Incidentally, the appellate authority in this case would be the director of NMML, Prof Mukherjee, herself.
'Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation' is edited by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and it has been criticised by opposition parties and others for a distorted portrayal of the Emergency. The book blames Sanjay Gandhi for the compulsory sterilisation that was among the major excesses of the Emergency, and apparently absolves the former prime minister Indira Gandhi and other leaders.
This new controversy while hurting the Congress party further, also undermines the integrity of a premier institution like NMML.
The tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan may provide some opportunity for few Indian companies like pharmaceutical and steel. The crisis may also affect some upcoming as well as existing nuclear power plants in India, in terms of safety and security
Japan is still fighting hard to contain the damage caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. On Wednesday morning, there was a second fire at the number four reactor at Daiichi plant. The biggest uncertainty at present is whether Japan would be able to safely shutdown the nuclear reactors or not. The exact magnitude and duration of economic problems in Japan is hard to estimate at present due to the evolving situation with the nuclear reactors and the unclear future of nuclear power sector in general.
Although it is too early to predict, the re-building of damaged areas and required healthcare facilities in Japan may provide some opportunity for Indian companies, mainly pharmaceutical and steel companies.
Religare Capital Markets Ltd, in a report said,"While impact of the crisis would be moderate on account of lower business exposure of Indian companies to Japanese markets, Autos (Maruti in particular), Capital Goods (BGR Energy), Pharmaceuticals (Lupin), and Telecom (Bharti) are the companies to watch out for on account of their revenue, raw material and funding linkages with Japan. While several other companies such as L&T, Tata Motors, Idea and Tata Steel have yen denominated debt, most of it is either hedged or converted and thus has minimal/no impact on yen appreciation."
Japan is the second largest market for pharmaceutical companies after the US. The Japanese generic market is expected to grow at about 9%-13% to $8-$11 billion, with the government target of 32% generic prescription by 2012. After the recent earthquake and tsunami, Japan is going to witness a rise in health problems related to gastro-intestinal, post-traumatic care and infections.
"Given their established presence, Ranbaxy Laboratories and Lupin are expected to be the major winners who can tap the Japanese opportunity. The increasing healthcare demand after the Japanese crisis would lead to a favourable opportunity for Lupin as the demand for anti-inflammatory (AI), neuro-psychiatric treatment and gastrointestinal (GI) drugs would see a rise," said Sharekhan Ltd, in a research note.
India has been a major supplier of iron ore to Japan. However, in recent years, many Japanese companies have set up joint ventures with Indian steel makers. During 2010, JFE Steel bought about 15% stake in JSW Steel, India's largest private steel maker for $1 billion. Sumitomo also bought 40% stake in Bhushan Steel's project in West Bengal, while Nippon Steel formed a joint venture with Tata Steel to make auto grade steel in India. Kobe Steel, which already has an existing agreement with state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL), signed an umbrella agreement with Essar Steel.
Those Japanese steel producers who have a joint venture or plant in other countries are likely to have an upper hand while catering to local demand, as almost all companies from the earthquake-affected areas have stopped production owing to the tsunami and the disruption of power supply.
While the overseas investments from Japan are expected to be lower in the near term, there are chances of more outflows over a longer term. "In the near term, Japanese companies are likely to delay overseas direct investment (ODI) plans. However, longer term, we could see greater demand from Japanese companies to diversify production bases in geologically more stable countries," said Citigroup, in a report.
Japan accounted for around $3.7 billion, or less than 2% of India's total exports of $175 billion during 2009-10. Over the past ten years, foreign direct investment (FDI) from Japan has been around 4% of the total FDI inflows in India.
Earlier in February, both the countries signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will eliminate tariffs on 94% of bilaterally traded goods in the next 10 years. Following the FTA, it was expected to boost bilateral trade between Japan and India. The temporary halt in Japan's export to other countries may also provide an opportunity to other countries. However, India may not be a beneficiary.
According to Citigroup, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand look relatively more vulnerable to a sharper slowdown in exports to Japan. "However, slower exports to Japan could be offset by stronger exports for product segments where Asian countries compete directly with Japan. Korea and Taiwan have export structures most similar to Japan," the report added.
The earthquake-related economic and fiscal impact on Japan is significant, but, given the unfolding situation, Standard & Poor's (S&P) Ratings Services said it believes it is too early to judge the implications for the unsolicited sovereign credit rating, which currently stands at AA- with stable outlook.
"The key factors determining the future trajectory of the sovereign credit rating on Japan include the overall macroeconomic impact of the earthquake, the pace and duration of reconstruction, and the impact on fiscal deficit," said S&P's credit analyst Takahira Ogawa. "In addition, we need to assess the government's ability to pursue its economic and fiscal reform agenda once reconstruction is well underway."
According to a report from Citigroup, near term economic damage in Japan is likely to give way to a reconstruction boost in the second half of 2011. "The boost from Japan's reconstruction in 2H2011 could offset 1H economic weakness, boosting overall FY2011 growth by +0.2 point to 2.1%," the report said.
The total cost of the reconstruction and recovery programme in Japan is still unclear. It's likely, however, to be significantly higher than that in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995. The Kobe disaster cost Japan $159 billion (about 16.3 trillion yen) over 1995-2000. The costs are again likely to be spread out over several years and funded from a number of sources, S&P said.
Following the Kobe earthquake, Japanese imports from Asia only slowed for about six months before rebounding, and Japan's share in Asia's exports has fallen significantly since then to a 7.3% share in 2010 from 12.3% in 1995. The slowdown in Japan's imports post-Kobe was more pronounced in industrial materials and consumer goods, while capital equipment imports posted a strong rebound. Indonesia and India also have a large share of industrial material exports to Japan, but exports matter less to these domestic-driven economies, Citigroup said.
"Given the sheer magnitude of the current disaster, the rating on Japan could be affected if the debt burden were to increase materially above our pre-earthquake expectations, due to a significant economic impact and reconstruction costs," Mr Ogawa added.
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