Emphasising the potential of a successful “digital census”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah Monday floated the idea of one identity card to replace duplicate and siloed documentations of Aadhaar card, voter ID card, banking card, passport, and more.
“We will have to end all these separate exercises,” Shah said at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the new Office of Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner. “If we do a digital census well, then all cards can come into one card. Government has not made this plan yet, but I want to put the potential in front of you to show that a successful digital census is your work and for the benefit of the public.”
Stating the entire exercise will cost Rs 12,000 crore, Shah, speaking to the room of census officers, flagged the role of the census in the “scientific planning and development of the nation”.
“Can birth and death registration be tied to electoral rolls? If a child’s birth is registered and there is no death registered until he is 18, can the electoral rolls not automatically include him?” he said. “Can a registered death not automatically remove the person from the electoral rolls?”
While schemes used to be developed in piece-meal fashion, Shah said 22 schemes were designed using 2011 census data, of which the most significant was the Ujjwala (gas cylinder) Yojana. The dry areas without cylinders were digitally mapped and provided the basis for mapping the gas agencies.
“2021 census will be the census’ transformation from a paper census to a digital one,” Shah said, adding the potential for new data analysis and visualisation with census data. “We can take this forward with a scientific approach.”
In the first phase of the Census 2021 test run, over 90 per cent of the enumerators opted to use a smartphone app to collect information, as reported first by The Indian Express. They will be given an incentive of Rs 5,000 each. At the end of the house-listing test phase in the beginning of September, mobile phones had synced the figures for 7.7 lakh houses with 26 lakh people to an official web portal, according to official data.
As for potential links to other online portals, an RGI official told The Indian Express that not all states are on an online portal for birth and death registrations as of now.
RGI has received permission with UIDAI to allow a voluntary question for Aadhaar number in the NPR form, official sources said. There will be no biometric authentication in the census.
“Who we can share the census data with and how, that process is still being developed,” the official said. The census cannot share an individual’s information but can share aggregate patterns of the data.
This time, three optional mobile applications — houselisting, population enumeration, National Population Register — as well as the web portal were developed in-house by a seven-person team in the Data Processing Unit (DPU) of the Registrar General, which has a 1 PB storage centre.
The RGI has floated a tender for a systems integrator to take on the technical aspects of the census after the test period.
The census test period will end September 30. Census officials are holding a two-day meeting this week to deliberate on feedback from the test period.
The census will be conducted in 16 languages, while the enumerators’ instruction manual has 18 languages. The RGI official said only 1 per cent of the country speaks English.