When it was first introduced as part of the prime minister’s Digital India initiative two years ago, DigiLocker was perhaps the most exciting. At one go, it promised to make it easier for billion-plus citizens to get all manner of official documents without even needing to stir out of their houses and keep them safe without any fear of theft/fire/floods. The list of documents was limitless, and ranged from birth certificates to school certificates, college degrees, caste-certificates, driving licenses, passports, vehicle registrations, PAN cards, property registrations, even insurance certificates, post office deposits, etc—anything that needed an official signature, whether by a government department or a private organisation, could be digitally signed and delivered directly to your DigiLocker. And since you could, in turn, forward that to anyone, like a prospective employer, bye bye, forgeries. To begin with, the government gave every citizen 10 MB of space in the cloud and created a DigiLocker linked to an Aadhaar number.
The number of documents a citizen could get, needless to say, depended on how fast various databases could be seeded with Aadhaar numbers. So, for instance, unless the records in the motor vehicles department are fully seeded with Aadhaar, no one can get a driving licence. Fortunately, there has been progress, though the pace could do with considerable speeding.
Naturally, the first official document that was available was the Aadhaar card and, of the 166 crore official documents that are linked to Aadhaar so far—a mere 75 lakh of these have been issued into a DigiLocker—as many as 66% are Aadhaar cards. LPG subscription vouchers, oddly, are the third-highest category at 11.5%, after vehicle registrations; any time people register for an LPG connection, they get a certificate that can be used in case of a transfer of residence, for instance. So, while DigiLocker had a mere 21 lakh users last year in September, after CBSE was roped in along with the ministry of transport, the numbers went up to nearly 50 lakh—keep in mind 25 lakh people clear 10/12th examinations every year (the database of digitally signed certificates goes back to 2014) and 1.5 crore new vehicles are registered each year.
The DigiLocker user base is small compared to, say, a BHIM, which got 1.9 crore downloads in just four months, but the lesson is clear, once more organisations are brought on board DigiLocker, the usage will rise rapidly. Given just 13 lakh birth certificates are digitally signed, for instance, makes it clear not enough municipalities are on board. Once the passport office and land registries, for instance, are made DigiLocker-ready, it is certain the usage will rise sharply. And if the government extends the service, for a fee perhaps, to insurance companies or banks which can issue policies or fixed deposit receipts, the user base will shoot up. While digital payments are in the news, DigiLocker is no less of an achievement.