The Aadhaar issuing body- Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) plans to establish 114 Aadhaar service centres (seva kendra) across the country.
Aadhaar cards are 12-digit unique identification numbers linked to a citizen’s basic demographic and biometric information.
114 Aadhaar Seva Kendras (ASKs) in 53 cities and towns will be set up within the next few months. These centres will provide easy and accessible Aadhaar-related services, like enrolment and update facilities.
With the recent Indian Supreme Court verdict on Aadhaar, the UIDAI has put in place stronger safeguards to speed up India’s digital journey.
Now, Aadhaar authentication information cannot be stored for more than six-month period. The court also directed the Government not to issue Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.
The UIDAI CEO, Mr Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that the organisation has already started the process of deleting the authentication logs beyond six months.
In September, the Supreme Court restricted the use of Aadhaar authentication by private entities in the absence of a legal provision, but allowed its mandatory use for welfare schemes, filing of Income Tax (IT) returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN).
As Aadhaar does not create a “surveillance state” nor does it infringe on the right to privacy, the Supreme Court declared that the Government’s biometric identity project was constitutionally valid but limited the scope. As a result of this, Aadhar is not a pre-requisite for bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions.
According to a UIDAI statement, the service centres aim is to ensure that the residents seeking services do not have to wait in queue as they can book a prior appointment.
Currently, Aadhaar enrolment centres are set up as walk-in centres. The new appointment-based Aadhaar enrolment and update service method will make the process “hassle-free and resident-friendly”. The ASKs will continue to have some counters for walk-in customers.
The UIDAI has noted that service providers can also use offline verification tools like e-Aadhaar, masked Aadhaar and Quick Response (QR) codes that use the unique ID without requiring authentication or access to biometrics.
As per the verdict regarding the linking of PAN to Aadhaar in 2017, the Supreme Court stated that it is crucial to have the proper safeguards to ensure there is no unauthorised leakage of data. Whether it is done by tightening the operations of the contractors who are given the job of enrolment or by putting in place severe penalties to those who are found guilty of leaking the details, is the outlook of the Government.
Mr Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that this move is expected to take the country miles ahead in its digital journey with augmented safety. He added that India’s digital journey will get a boost by this landmark judgement because it is now supported by stronger data protection safeguards.
A virtual bank based in Hong Kong has confirmed the public launch of its digital banking services. It is notably the only stand-alone firm to acquire a virtual bank license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the city-state’s de facto central bank that’s also responsible for promoting the efficiency, integrity and development of its financial system.
The new virtual bank reportedly began pilot services back in April 2020 (under the HKMA Fintech Supervisory Sandbox).
The bank is a homegrown digital bank that acquired an operational license in April 2019. It’s one of only eight virtual bank licenses in Hong Kong.
It claims to be completely digital, and has been developed for customers to take advantage of “a range of next-generation digital services 24/7 from their mobile phones.”
The digital bank allows account opening to be completed within minutes. There are zero monthly fees for maintaining accounts, the bank’s management confirmed.
The services being offered include time deposits, along with a virtual debit card and real-time payments via the Faster Payment System (FPS). The WeLab debit card is a numberless card that has been issued with the help of Mastercard.
The bank’s public launch has come after the introduction of ZA Bank by ZhongAn/Sinolink, and Airstar Bank by Xiaomi/AMTD.
The bank is the third digital bank to launch in Hong Kong at a time when the Coronavirus crisis has accelerated the shift towards digital platforms and services.
The bank appears to have entered a saturated market with around 155 traditional lenders and eight digital banks that are offering services to Hong Kong’s over 7 million residents.
The Bank is offering a 4.5% annual rate on deposits, starting from HK$10 (appr. $1.30). The company is also offering a time-limited 8% rebate on customer spending.
The CEO of the bank stated that the Covid-19 pandemic offers opportunities and challenges. It has forced many people to work and shop from home. Many people are more comfortable using their mobile phones to open an account and conduct banking transactions.
The Chairman of the bank stated that the bank aims to offer a high deposit rate and cash rebate to help customers better cope with the Covid-19 outbreak. Hong Kong residents can earn more by saving their cash handouts with the bank or by spending with our debit card.
Last year, the HKMA awarded eight digital bank licences. Some of the other licensees include Mox, Ant Bank, Livi, Ping An OneConnect, and Fusion Bank. These banks are still in the process of completing their pilots.
A partner at stated that all the virtual banks which have launched to date have, understandably, focused on customer acquisition in the form of promotional discounts, time-limited interest rates, referral bonuses, and so on.
The real challenge will be engaging customers beyond these initial launch offers. Right now, we believe that only a handful of new players will truly be able to differentiate.
OpenGov Asia previously reported that since the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has started issuing banking licenses to several local virtual banks in the first half of 2019, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) has swiftly strengthened its training offering in the fields of Fintech, cybersecurity and digital banking.
The institute has launched more than 30 related courses and seminars, ranging in subjects from risk management, business development, blockchain, data security to global regulatory and compliance that has been attended by over 2,000 participants.
Over the next year, the HKIB will continue efforts to promote Fintech development in Hong Kong. As the Fintech ecosystem in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area continues to grow in prominence, the institute remains committed to improving the cross-border and cross-sector financial and market knowledge of banking practitioners through its professional training programmes to help local professionals sustain their competitiveness.
The Australian government has announced its support for a new initiative that enables the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to assist economic recovery in Vietnam after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government is providing AU$ 650,000 (about US$ 467,216) to the initiative, which is within the framework of Australia’s Aus4Innovation program in collaboration with the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).
It will offer short-term funding for innovative AI solutions to deal with the consequences of the virus, and support long-term demands, including technical support for the implementation of Vietnam’s AI strategy and training courses for stakeholders in the AI ecosystem.
According to a news report, the announcement was made at the second Innovation Partnership Meeting between the Australian Embassy in Vietnam and MOST in Hanoi on 4 August.
At the event, the two sides reviewed the outstanding achievements from the first 18 months of implementing the Aus4Innovation program.
Accordingly, Aus4Innovation has provided AU$ 4 million (around US$ 2.8 million) in funding for:
- Innovative partnerships between Vietnamese and Australian institutions.
- Capacity-building activities in science commercialisation for individual researchers and institutions across Vietnam.
- Technical assistance to MOST in important science, technology, and innovation policy research.
As a continuation of the Aus4Innovation initiatives to support the building of Vietnam’s future digital economy in the strong correlation between digitisation and economic growth, the funding of the AI initiative is a natural extension of program activities to help Vietnam cope with COVID-19.
Addressing the meeting, Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie hailed innovation as one of the three key pillars in the Vietnam-Australia partnership, stating that in the face of the global pandemic, it has become more important than ever.
The new AI initiative is a great example of how modern technology can be adapted quickly to respond to Vietnam’s emerging needs, she said.
It is also a strong demonstration of Australia’s commitment to working with partners in Vietnam and the Indo-Pacific region to address the impacts of COVID-19 and support long-term recovery, Mudie added.
MOST Minister Chu Ngoc Anh welcomed Australia’s support to Vietnam in AI application as well as the continued support from the Aus4Innovation program in enhancing connections between the Australian and Vietnamese innovation ecosystems.
Over the past 18 months, the sides have created a sound basis for a further mutual innovation partnership. They are confident this partnership will continue to bring positive results and impacts to Vietnam’s sustainable socio-economic development, he stated.
The new AI initiative will be implemented from August 2020 to June 2021, including support for the 2020 Vietnam AI Day (AI4VN 2020) under the theme “AI in pandemic: Adapting to the new normal”.
Other funded events include workshops, a technology showcase conference, training courses, and a hackathon. The highlight is the AI Hackathon, a 48-hour contest that brings experts and top programmers together to find new ways to utilise AI as Vietnam recovers from COVID-19. The winning ideas will receive funding for implementation.
Aus4Innovation is an AU$ 11 million (around US$ 7.9 million) development assistance program that aims to strengthen Vietnam’s innovation system, to prepare for and embrace opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, and to help shape Vietnam’s innovation agenda in science and technology.
Angeles City residents (Angelenos) may now download the digital contract tracing application StaySafe.PH on their mobile phones for free.
This came after the city government issued Executive Order No. 17, Series of 2020, requiring the public to use the application, as part of its intensified contact tracing program against the COVID-19 virus.
According to a press release, the application collates information on the users’ health condition, obtained through a 300-metre radius scan.
After downloading the application, users need to answer questions regarding their current health condition, which will then be recorded in the database. This will help identify those who have mild and severe conditions and users of the app will be able to see those who are within their 300-metre radius.
A representative noted that once the city government uploaded positive cases, the data will be shown to all users so they will be more aware and conscious of the places where they are going.
Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. appealed to all Angelenos, to be honest in answering the questions required by the app for the successful implementation of the program.
He also assured the public that information collected through the StaySafe.PH will remain safe and that the privacy of the users of the application will be protected.
The app is also expected to better mobilise the city’s response team.
Once a user reports possible COVID-19 symptoms via the StaySafe.Ph application, the Angeles City Command Center will contact the user and follow-up on their conditions. Upon further analysis and recommendation of the City Health Office, the Angeles City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office will then take action, the official said.
The Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Centre Chief, Dr Froilan Canlas, said the StaySafe.PH application will help in the city’s ongoing COVID-19 case management in hospitals.
With this app, the centre’s database will be more updated which is why the government is encouraging every hospital facility in the city to use the app, he explained.
StaySafe.PH, the national contact tracing platform, was endorsed by the National Task Force and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and currently being used by other local government units in the country.
Last month, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged all local government units to boost the digital economy and move towards digitised government transactions to reduce contact, impede further infection, and boost economic activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As OpenGov reported, the DILG Secretary, Eduardo M. Ano, also directed the units to fast track the issuance of permits and clearances in setting up crucial infrastructure needed for digital connectivity across the country including the construction of cell sites to improve internet connectivity.
The millions working from home, the students looking forward to online learning, and the workers who depend on the digital economy are all expecting the government to address the gaps in the internet infrastructure. Therefore, the department is encouraging all LGUs to strengthen their digital platforms in their communities.
Government units must encourage businesses to veer towards online money transfer, which has become part of the new normal, instead of physical payment.
The number of installations of the Bluezone mobile application has increased sharply recently, reaching over two million as of 2 August, according to the Authority of Information Technology Application.
The app, developed by the country’s leading cybersecurity firm BKAV, alerts a user if they have come in close contact with people who tested positive, minimising the spread of the virus in the community.
When there is a new case of infection, a user can find out whether they had close contact with the person or not simply by accessing Bluezone.
In a bid to assist the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Viettel, a military-run industry and telecoms group, has increased the capacity of the Vietnam Health Declaration application by 30%.
According to a press release, from 25 July to 2 August, this application usage reached 1.1 million declarations, nearly 28 times higher than the previous week.
On 30 July, the number of declarations reached 392,000, 12 times higher than the first day when the new community transmission case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Da Nang, according to Viettel.
The network operator has proactively upgraded the app storage capacity from 22 million to over 28 million declarations records.
As of 3 August, Vietnam has a total of 642 COVID-19 cases, including 195 cases linked to the COVID-19 outbreak in Da Nang.
To ensure the delivery of services is efficient and limits as much physical interaction as possible, the government has developed a national portal, PayGov, to promote electronic payments for public services.
PayGov is not a payment service but acts as a platform to connect public service portals and single-window systems with intermediary payment service providers, as OpenGov reported.
Once connected with the platform, online public service portals of ministries and local authorities will be provided with a single interface to use all the services of the intermediary payment providers.
At the same time, intermediary payment companies can provide their services to all ministries and local authorities through PayGov.
In addition to public services, PayGov can provide payment services for other utilities such as electricity, water, healthcare, and education, all in the one place.
Recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc decided to approve a new list of members of the National Committee on e-Government and working group.
The decision took effect from 31 July, replacing Decision No. 1737/QD-TTg, dated 3 December 2019 on the list of members of the National Committee on e-Government.
As per a press release, the Committee is tasked to propose to the government and the PM guidelines, strategies, and mechanisms to create a legal framework to promote the development of e-government towards a digital economy and society in the face of the fourth industrial revolution.
It also targets to assist the government and the PM in coordinating and inspecting the implementation of interdisciplinary strategies, programs, mechanisms, policies, schemes, projects, and natural solutions on the construction and development of e-government, digital transformation, digital economy, and smart cities.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has announced it is shifting from traditional classroom training to 100% online learning to ensure that its training programs reach more audience amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The current global health emergency requiring physical distancing has prompted the FSI to advance the timetable for implementing the institute’s earlier plans to shift its courses from the traditional face-to-face modality to online, a press release explained.
The FSI serves as the centre for development and professionalisation of DFA’s foreign service units as well as other government agencies that have offices and employees assigned abroad.
On 3 August, the DFA announced the completion of the first run of two online courses: the Basic Foreign Service Staff Employees’ Course (BFSSEC) and the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS).
It is one of the institute’s core training programs and was designed to equip participants with the basic knowledge and skills required of their positions and enabled them to carry out their functions more effectively.
The course focused on enriching the knowledge of participants in clerical, administrative, and technical work while enhancing basic communication skills.
The course was conducted for DFA personnel who were going on assignments abroad for the first time.
This four-module seminar covered Diplomacy and Philippine Foreign Policy, Philippine Foreign Service Work Operations, Crisis Management and Assistance to Nationals (CMAN), and Adapting to Foreign Assignments and Building Resilience.
The DFA said that BFSSEC has been completed by 45 DFA personnel while a total of 37 personnel participated in the PDOS Course, 20 from DFA and 17 from other government agencies: i.e., Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of National Defense (DND), and Philippine National Police (PNP).
Online deliveries of the courses are conducted via Google Meet and Zoom platforms while trivia games and quizzes were done through applications such as Kahoot and Mentimeter.
Despite all the technical challenges in the new modality, one of the resource persons highlighted in her feedback of the Course that, during a pandemic, online classes are better than traditional face-to-face classes, the release stated.
Many local government units around the country are boosting digital methods to cope with the pandemic.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is set to improve the internet connectivity in Batanes, in response to the online education program of the Department of Education.
Acting Governor Ignacio Villa admitted that internet connection remains to be a challenge in most areas in the province thereby limiting web-based services, where the connection is reliable.
He also said setting up of internet services in the different municipalities will also back up the move of public and private agencies to implement online transactions.
On the other hand, Villa said the tourism industry, which is the main livelihood source of the majority of the Ivatans, is greatly affected by the Corona Virus Disease 2019 pandemic.
The government has given some assistance in the form of goods and cash grants to the affected families. This is aside from the assistance given by other government agencies.
The Indian Tax department has been appreciated for its continuous efforts towards making India’s tax administration taxpayer-friendly, transparent and geared towards facilitating voluntary compliance by Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman
There has been a paradigm shift in its role in recent years, from being just a revenue collecting organisation to becoming a more citizen-centric organisation.
Various reform measures will pave the way for an Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, India’s ambitions of becoming self-reliant.
Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Finance Secretary, recognised that the tax department has had to navigate a delicate balance between enforcement and service.
He appreciated the Department for having increasingly oriented itself towards becoming taxpayer-service centric without compromising its enforcement role by deploying non-intrusive tools of data mining and data analytics.
In the Union Budget 2019, the Finance Minister proposed the introduction of a scheme of faceless e-assessment.
The scheme, first announced by the Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman in the 2019 budget speech, is seen as a big leap towards transparent tax administration.
The scheme, a procedure to carry out a faceless assessment through electronic mode, sought to eliminate the human interface between the taxpayer and the income tax department.
The Indian IT Department looks to complete Faceless e-Assessments by mid-September 2020.
Over 3,100 tax personnel, including 600 IT officers are busy implementing the Faceless e-Assessment scheme of Income Tax. Out of 58,319 cases selected for faceless assessment, 8,700 cases have already been disposed.
“This is the first time that we are doing the faceless e-assessment. The work has picked up since July, after having addressed all the issues related to infrastructure, manpower, hardware and software. Our target is to finish all the cases by mid-September” said S K Gupta, Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and Member, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The Income Tax Department in October 2019 rolled out the faceless e-assessment scheme that eliminates physical interface between an assessing officer and an assessee.
Eight cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune are covered under the scheme.
The cases taken up for faceless e-assessment include a mix of returns filed by individuals, businesses, MSME as well as big companies.
The National e-Assessment Centre in Delhi is the single point of contact for the taxpayer as well as for all units conducting assessment.
It is the NEC which issues notices under Section 143(2) to the assessee for which the assessee is required to respond within 15 days of receipt of notice.
Upon the issue of a notice, NEC allocates the case to any Assessment Unit through an automated allocation system, ensuring anonymity.
The conventional system of scrutiny assessment involved a high level of personal interaction between the tax payer and the Income Tax Department officials.
Under the faceless e-assessment system, the tax payer would not know by whom his /her return is being assessed or in which city.
Instead of territorial jurisdiction, the new system has brought in dynamic jurisdiction.
Mr Gupta noted that, “The anonymity and the absence of human interface will go a long way in addressing the issue of harassment as well as curb instances of corruption.”
Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar today launched the Sahakar Cooptube National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) Channel.
The channel is a new initiative by National Cooperative Development Corporation and is designed to help operationalising different aspects of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India).
A series of guidance videos produced by NCDC on ‘Formation and Registration of A Cooperative’ for eighteen different states in Hindi and regional languages was simultaneously launched.
More states would be added to the collection of guidance videos on NCDC Sahakar Cooptube Channel in due course of time.
Formation of new cooperatives is a prerequisite for bringing new life and dedication in the realm of cooperative movement.
The guidance videos in different languages covering 18 States would also strengthen and deepen the major initiatives of the government to promote and form 10,000 FPOs.
Cooperatives have a major role in the country in boosting the Indian economy for decades. Largely as association of small and marginal farmers and rural poor, the cooperatives have acquired a huge network of over 8.50 lakh organizations and 290 million members.
They have come a long way and have proven their success in improving the condition of farmers and overall economic development.
Almost 55% of India’s population depends on agriculture as its primary source of revenue. India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022.
The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased investments in agricultural infrastructure ad agritech.
India accounts for more than 450+ start-ups in the agritech space, which translates that every 9th agritech startup in the world is an Indian one.
The Indian government has recently announced a series of transformative measures and sector specific financial packages to help agriculture.
NCDC has achieved tremendous success with cumulative financial assistance to cooperatives to the tune of Rs.1,54,000 crore (US$ 23.5 billion). NCDC disbursed around Rs.28,000 crore (US$ 4.3 billion) during 2019-20 and has made unprecedented progress in the last six years.
All these initiatives are steps towards One Nation One Market with the objective for India to become food factory of the world.
The gamut of exhaustive reforms and measures are intended to strengthen all activities and services in agriculture, horticulture and allied sectors.
The strengthening of these sectors will be through creation and development of agriculture infrastructure, micro food enterprises, value chains and logistics for fishery and animal husbandry, medicinal and herbal plants, bee keeping and Operation Green.
Significant legislative amendments have been made to create conducive environment for agriculture as well as provisions for It and tech related advancements.
The Government of India planning Rs 2,000 crore (US$ 306.29 million) for computerisation of Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) to ensure cooperatives are benefitted through digital technology.
Early in July the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) announced a Rs 5,000 crore (US$ 765 million) grant-based scheme for computerisation of 35,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) by FY23. Under the scheme, assistance will be released to state governments which will also have to contribute a matching grant for disbursement to the PACS.
As many as 40% of 12.5 crore small and marginal farmers depend on PACS to get short-term loans. Not only computerisation, the scheme also will ensure integration of these PACS with the Core Banking System (CBS) of District Central Co-operative Banks (DCCBs) to ensure seamless flow of credit.
Apart from the financial and technological input, the minister said that a key strategy in the ecosystem is to facilitate involvement of youth in cooperatives.