India to roll out chip-embedded e-passports in 2nd phase Passport Seva Programme
NEW DELHI: The external affairs ministry and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) signed an agreement on Friday for the second phase of the Passport Seva Programme (PSP-V2.0), which envisages the roll out of microchip-embedded e-passports.
The second phase of the programme, already the largest e-governance programme in the country, will last nine-and-a-half years and see TCS deploy the latest technologies to ease services. The e-passports, which will have a microchip with secure biometric data, are set to be unveiled during this phase.
An e-passport’s chip usually has the holder’s biographical information that is printed on the document’s data page and a biometric identifier. Such passports have digital security features to prevent unauthorised reading of data stored on the chip.
TCS, which is India’s largest software exporter, is expected to bring in technology for e-passports but the granting and printing of passports will remain with the government. The e-passports will be compliant with the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the Indian Security Press in Nashik and the National Informatics Centre are involved in designing the security features.
The second phase of the programme further envisages creation of a new data centre, a disaster recovery centre and a Government Secure Repository linked to all Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs), Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSKs), passport offices and Indian missions abroad.
An electronic file system for passport processing running across the passport issuance ecosystem and round-the-clock monitoring and supervision through a Network Operation Centre (NOC) and Security Operation Centre (SOC) will also be created.
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, secretary for consular, passport and visa services in the external affairs ministry, tweeted that during the second phase of the programme, facilities at POPSKs would be similar to PSK levels, there would be use of biometrics and AI, data integration and data personalisation, and continuous upgrades to the best practices.
The external affairs ministry said PSP-V2.0 will be both a continuation and an enhancement of the first phase of the programme that introduced many changes in the delivery of passport-related services to citizens.
The focus was on a timely, transparent, more accessible and reliable platform, and support functions such as citizen interface, technology backbone, call centres, training and change management were provided by TCS while the government exercised all sovereign and security-related functions in the passport issuance process.
The external affairs ministry is now working towards opening a Seva Kendra in every Lok Sabha constituency where there is no PSK or POPSK. Currently, 93 PSKs, 428 POPSKs and 36 passport offices are operational. The programme was recently also connected to more than 176 Indian missions through the Global Passport Seva Programme (GPSP) to benefit the Indian diaspora.
The PSP-V 2.0 will ensure a digital ecosystem, process overhauling and integration among various stakeholders and database, improved citizen interface, upgraded technology, and stronger data security. All security aspects, including strategic assets such as data centres, database and the application software will be owned by the government and there will be strict access controls across the system, incorporating biometrics.
The Passport Seva Programme will also embark on a technology upgrade with the use of biometrics, artificial intelligence, advance data analytics, chat-bot, auto-response, natural language processing and cloud enablement.