Coming soon in Tamil Nadu: A safe, secure digital vault to store your docs

Arun Janardhanan
Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu blockchain, Tamil Nadu government blockchain backbone, tnega.tn, Tamil Nadu government, e-Governance, indian express

Chief Minister E Palaniswami. (Express/ file)

A unique idea of the Tamil Nadu government, which is all set to come out as a formal order, is meant to make life easier for people with their own data — from birth to death certificates and from licenses to insurances -- at a single click. It is a zero proof, identity-based predictive government service, backed by a bulletproof Blockchain system.

The plan that comes under e-Governance makes people free from the usual processes of applying for various government services like certificates, documents, licenses to various different government departments. For a while now, people have been doing this by going over to offices or through government help centres or from their own homes. But with a view to making these interactions between the government and citizens completely hassle-free, a new system being implemented by Tamil Nadu will provide all such services “as a predictive service” to ensure that citizens need not apply for any statutory service. Instead, all these documents will be made available in a secret vault accessible through a One-Time Password (OTP).

“This idea emerged among top officers based on the flaws of the data systems that exist in India, where people often end up wasting several days to make minor spelling corrections in their certificates from government offices by paying bribes,” said a senior official at the state e-Governance department.

According to a recent write up by Santhosh Babu IAS, an officer who has pioneered several such e-governance programmes in the state, “the application software used for issuing certificates will be suitably modified so that the document issued shall electronically hit the Makkal Number (People’s Number) already created by TNeGA (Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency) for seven crore people of the state”.

In simple terms, it may be like the state insurance scheme where beneficiaries of state’s much-celebrated programme instantly generate an insurance number based on patient’s phone number at the hospital when they visit during a medical emergency to avail free treatment. Going a step ahead, a Citizen’s Vault is being created for each citizen in this new system which helps them view their certificates and documents using their mobile number as the user ID and an OTP (one-time-password) that they instantly receive on their phones as the password.

When there is a secret vault and citizens can manage and access their documents and certificates, does it give a similar control to the government as well? According to Babu, an emerging system called blockchain, an incorruptible digital system of transactions with resistance to data modification, is going to be the backbone of the proposed system.

The Blockchain will prompt the software of each government department or agency to issue the certificate, document as and when a citizen becomes eligible for it — be it anything from birth to death certificates, during a person’s lifetime. The system will also have a provision in which departments, agencies and even private employers can, with the consent of the applicant, verify the authenticity of qualifications electronically; there will be no more need additional letters or manual attestations to establish authenticity of documents.

“The data stored using Blockchain technology cannot be altered. The TNeGA will build a Blockchain platform for Tamil Nadu, at a cost of Rs 40 crore, to be offered as a service to all government departments, without them having to maintain a blockchain node. They shall be able to verify their data in the Blockchain independently without hosting the node. The ambitious idea, originally mooted by Babu (who has initiated many projects in the state including "paperless offices," rural BPOs and an e-repository of artisans) and Santhosh Misra, CEO of TNeGA. The plan, announced by the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami recently, is expected to be implemented in a year’s time.