Smart Card based
solutions are popular in many Banking and E-Governance applications and
India is getting ready to a huge investment on Smart Cards in its
Citizen ID project. The use of Smart Cards is basically recommended for
the higher security that it is proposed to provide for a solution.
It is however necessary
to recognize that like many other IT solutions Smart Cards have a cost
and unless the application justifies the cost and there are no cheaper
alternative, there is no need to adopt Smart Cards for a given solution.
Typically Smart Cards
are used to store information such as health record, the vehicle
registration record or driver’s license record, Bank record etc. These
cards are read using a “Smart Card Reader” which will be required at all
access points. Additionally at the originating end, Smart Card writers
are also required.
The total cost of Smart
Card usage includes
Smart Card Cost
Smart Card Reader Cost.
Smart Card Writer Cost
Smart Card Implementation Cost
There are varieties of
Smart Cards from 1 Kb simple storage cards to 4 MB communicating and
processing cards. The reader and writer costs also vary according to the
type of cards.
In a simple application
the Card may cost around RS 75/- the Reader around RS 5000/- to 8000,
the writer upto RS 2 lakhs and the implementation nearly RS 50 lakhs.
In the case of a
Citizen ID card issued at each district head quarters, there will be a
need for one writer at each of the district centers. The number of cards
required will depend on the number of users (Say 30-50 Crores?) and the
number of readers required will be several lakhs. Additionally the
readers and writers need replacement and involve a recurring cost also.
It appears that the
cost of such a project is beyond the scope of the Indian Government in
the near future and any attempt made to introduce the project will die a
premature death after the pilot stage.
The incurring of such
costs is not also justified from security point of view since Smart
Cards are prone to security risks both at the user level as well as the
writing level. If Smart Card writers are to be held at every district
in the Country the security risk will be present at each of these
centers and such risks will be both technical and manpower based. It is
also a myth to consider that Smart Cards are hacker proof.
If anything, since the
Card to be manipulated may be in the hands of a forger, it is easy to
apply the best available technology for hacking and also take as much
time as required for hacking the smart card.
Hence if the rewards
justify, Smart Cards can be hacked and will be hacked. Hence it will be
easy for terrorists and those who would like to modify the demographic
records of the country to hack and modify Smart Cards issued to Citizens
as ID cards.
Cards are prone to “Floating Information Risk” where manipulated data is
never available to authorities for verification and will be floating
until a major scam surfaces.
This discussion on the
limitations of Smart Cards would be largely academic and un productive
if a proper alternative was not available. However an easy and
economical tool is in our hands and it is called DVIIS. This can serve
the requirements of Citizen ID at costs such as
- Rs 10-12 for Cards
- Use of telephones at
access points for information retrieval
- No special device
for writing other than a Secured Web server system
If required, readers
that cost less than 50 % of smart card readers can be used for
There will be
implementation cost which again should be less than in the Smart Card
An intelligent risk
management system makes the system more secure than the Smart Card
The enormous cost
savings that this system would entail for the introduction of Citizen ID
system will make this the ideal choice against the presently envisaged
Smart Card system.
In summary therefore
there is a need for E-Governance implementers to look at this
alternative before finalizing any Smart Card based project.
The solution is backed
by an International Patent pending in the name of an Indian Citizen.
More details can be had
from Na.Vijayashankar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Mobile : 98410-30123