Census 2021: Amit Shah plans to make it digital, a prospect to be viewed with caution, say experts
The exercise would also be part of the preparation of the National Population Register. Census 2011, which was paper-based, had placed the country’s population at 121 crores.
The Census of India this time will be a digital exercise. Setting the stage for the decadal population enumeration project, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced today that the process in 2021 will be carried out through a mobile app.
Describing the population listing in two years from now as one of the most important measures to plan the social welfare and entitlement schemes of the country better, Shah said the Centre was likely to spend Rs. 12,000 crore on it. The exercise would also be part of the preparation of the National Population Register. Census 2011, which was paper-based, had placed the country’s population at 121 crores.
Experts in the field have in principle welcomed the announcement of going paperless for the giant 2021 Census exercise. However, they have also cautioned about possible leakages and flagged privacy concerns.
“It is completely possible and the enumerators can be easily trained to do this. The announcement brings along a lot of opportunity and must be seen as a giant digital leap. Digital connectedness provides the facility for tagging the location of the house. The coordinates of the citizen’s residence can be compiled. There are many such features which can be added like on-the-spot photograph of the person. But it has to been carried out with a lot of caution,” Osama Manzar, head of the Digital Empowerment Foundation told Asiaville.
What is the software that will be used? What is the location feature that will be employed? Who will guarantee the protection of the data? Would the government ensure that the data mined is used only for the purpose it is collected? These were questions uppermost in his mind.
Lack of a proper law in the country to protect the privacy of data and the individual is also a point of major concern for the specialists in the field. Though the experts welcome the “giant leap” in census collection, they are not sure we are ready as a society to make the judicious use of the collected data.
“Increased digitalization in all spheres of governance without a privacy law, data localization and indigenous technology is a national security threat,” Col. (retd) Pavithran Rajan, cyber law expert told Asiaville.
Shah also announced in the function today in Delhi that the government plans to club all other forms of identification such as Aadhaar, PAN, driving license and electors photo identity card (EPIC) under one platform with the Census 2021 - a process which will help the government develop a multipurpose identity document.
“A mobile app will be used in Census 2021. It will be a transformation from paper census to digital census," Shah said adding that population census is an exercise that helps to provide people the benefits of the government schemes and helps the government solve many issues in the country.
However, Shah also conceded that the government at present is not equipped to roll out a multi-purpose identity card, and it will have to be slowly evolved. He claimed that after 2014, the BJP government led by Narendra Modi has been actively using census data for bettering the social benefit schemes.