Putting in place a centralised voter management system can help eliminate distortions arising out of the political economy that has muddied voter registrations, says a new book co-authored by technocrat Nandan Nilekani.
In the book penned by him and his UIDAI colleague Viral Shah, they have also pitched for widespread adoption of electronic payment systems.
The suggestions have been made in the book titled ‘Rebooting India – Realizing a billion aspirations’.
Nandan Nilekani, who himself fought the 2014 general elections, is the Founding Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and co-founder of Infosys.
According to Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah, when bank account and mobile phone connection can move with a person from one city to another, it is only fair to expect that a voter ID should be able to do so as well.
“By imposing geographical constraints on the ability to vote, we are in effect denying people their fundamental right as citizens of a representative democracy. To address these issues, we propose the creation of a centralised voter management system…, ” the book said.
With a single, centralised voter enrolment system running the same multilingual software across the country, the duo said there would be no incentive for “distortions, biases and fraud, eliminating the entire political economy that has muddied voter registration”.
When there is already a centralised system capable of storing Aadhaar data of 1.2 billion Indians, there is no reason why a similar system can’t be build for voter ID data, they wondered.
According to the duo, the only way to bridge the last mile gap will be through the widespread adoption of electronic payment systems.
The government must be the initial driver, using the heft and reach of its social security schemes to drive the adoption of an electronic payments model, they noted.
“We envision electronic payments as the first step on the ladder of financial inclusion,” Nilekani and Shah have said.
As per the book, the country’s problems need to be fixed at a great speed, at scale, with high quality while providing solutions that are easy to access, independent of geography and low-cost.
“Technology, the great leveller, is our only hope of meeting these goals,” it said.
Dividing challenges broadly into the categories of aspirational and early stages one to be scaled up, the book said the former includes reforms in education, healthcare, elections, energy, justice and expenditure.
The latter includes cashless system, paperless society, electronic toll and the GST.
“We firmly believe, based on our experience with Aadhaar, that all we need is a start-up in government to address every grand challenge that we face,” the duo said.
Making suggestions, they said ten start-ups with a crisp ten member team in each under the direct control of the Prime Minister can provide solutions to the problems.
“As alien it may sound, India has actually nurtured a proud tradition of start-ups within the government ever since Independence,” the duo said citing examples of the country’s atomic programme under Homi Bhaba and space research programme under Vikram Sarabhai, among others.
“Any new government project should be treated, in essence, like a start-up that needs to stake a claim for itself. The officials in charge of such project need to display a considerable amount of entrepreneurial savvy,” the book said.
“One and a quarter billion people is asking for change, and they want it now; technology is the only answer to their question,” it noted.
For the duo, lack of appetite for risk, fear of change, removal of opportunity for corruption and ganging up to retain power, among others, are the major challenges when it comes to making technology possible within the government.
“The challenge that lies before us is to create the platform that allows every one of India’s 1.2 billion people to get on a train headed for the destination of their choice,” they added.