Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pakistan Leads Asia in Biometric IT Services

All the hype about Indian IT sector makes it hard to believe that it is Pakistan, not India, which has widely deployed biometric identification technology to issue multi-purpose national ID cards and e-passports to its citizens. Is this just another case of the proverbial shoemaker's children going barefoot?



In fact, Pakistan is among the first few countries of the world to issue biometric national ID cards to 83 million citizens. Pakistan has also issued over 7 million e-passports to its citizens since October, 2004. These Multi-Biometric Electronic Passports, containing an RFID chip, facial and fingerprint images of the passport holder, PKI and other security features are compliant with ICAO standards.



Established in the year 2000, NADRA, the National Database and Registration Authority, is Pakistan's state-owned IT services company that specializes in implementing multi-biometric national identity cards and e-passports, as well as secure access verification and control systems in both public and private sectors. It is recognized among the top 50 IT firms in the world by the ID World Congress.

NADRA's database is among the largest, if not the largest, fully integrated databases in the world that supports both an Automatic Finger Identification System (AFIS) & a Facial Recognition System:

• National Data Warehouse
• Storage Capacity of 60 Terabytes
• Processing Speed of 18 Trillion Instructions/ Sec
• Multilingual Support of English/ Urdu/ Sindhi
• AFIS with a matching speed of 16 million/sec
• World's largest Facial Library of 83 million images (ICAO)
• Network Infrastructure
• Highly redundant, scalable and mission critical
• Connected with more than 8000 computers
• Equipped Terrestrial, VSAT, and DVB RCS/2 network Links

Beyond the national ID cards and passports, other current NADRA projects are motor vehicle registration (VINs or vehicle ID numbers), driver licenses, law enforcement, gun licensing, credit reporting, authentication of various transactions, statistical data, birth/ marriage/ death registration, GIS, e-Governance, disbursement of grants and planning at federal, provincial, district and local government levels using the national database.

NADRA's domestic public sector clients include the Ministry of Interior, Directorate of Immigration and Passports, National Highway Authority, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehab Authority, UNHCR-Pakistan and Benazir Income Support Program for the poor.

NADRA issued Watan cash cards as part of a recent project to hand out Rs 28.8 billion among 1.527 million flood affected families in rural Pakistan last year. It is now working with the FBR, Pakistan's tax collectors, to catch millions of income tax evaders.

NADRA's corporate clients are Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Barclays Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Charter Bank, PTCL, IESCO, SNGPL and SSGPL.

International clients of NADRA include governments of Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan. NADRA Technologies has recently entered into a agreement with Global Defense, a Turkish company, to pursue biometric IT services opportunities in Turkey and other European and Middle Eastern nations.

PTCL, another state-owned company, is rolling out fast broadband access at low cost, and building data centers in Pakistan to enable cloud computing on a large scale. PTCL has recently started rolling out 50 Mbits/sec broadband service in several cities and towns, and built large data centers in Karachi and Lahore.

IT sector is alive, and it is focusing on solving real problems in Pakistan. And the state-owned enterprises like PTCL and NADRA are building IT infrastructure and developing and deploying information and communication technology to lead the way for both public and private sector companies in the country.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

NADRA Case Study

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

PTCL Data Centers

PTCL's 50 Mbps Broadband Access in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Internet Service Providers of Pakistan

Poverty Reduction Through Telecom Access

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

Pakistan Tops Text Message Growth

WiMax Rollout in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in Pakistan

Smartphones in Pakistan

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

There was no need to compare with India.

But just to let you know, the UID project is way WAY more advanced, ambitious and on a much larger scale than NADRA will ever take

For starters, the NADRA project just takes one fingerprint and facial data

UID takes fingerprints of all ten fingers AND a retinal scan

Look, Pakistan in down in the dumps and you're putting up all kinds of good new to raise people's spirits But comparison with India will only invite ridicule

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a DNA India story on India's UID project, aka Aadhaar:

Is the government of India’s ambitious Unique Identification (UID) Card project as robust as it pledges to be? Can it ride over the omnipresent hurdles posed by the country’s massive population and technological shortfalls? Some of these questions have been put forth in a working paper of by Prof Rajnish Dass of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). The project aims to provide a unique 12-digit number to 1.2 billion residents of India.
The paper titled ‘Unique Identity Card Project in India: A Divine Dream or a Miscalculated Heroism’ brings out the crucial point of need to consult stakeholder groups, to understand IT readiness and expectation gap for a project like this, and hold public debates since huge cost and effort are being put into the largest project in the world.

“A concrete execution plan of the project can be designed by clearly mapping the efforts and resources of the project with the intended benefits and presented to the people of the nation. In light of the perceived cost, feasible benefits and perceived risks, this should further be publicly debated in order to understand the readiness of the nation in taking such an initiative,” states the paper.

The paper suggests that in view of the huge implications in terms of cost and effort, it becomes mandatory to put forward a detailed cost-benefit report before the people. It is because the nation has to look into other priority areas prior to initiating and executing such a task.

Involvement of people or feedback about the significance of it is important, because if citizens do not find value in such cards or the government processes are not scaled up to match the working of such identification, the mammoth efforts and money spent on the project would be seriously questioned, says
the paper.

The paper points out four challenges before the project. The UID project has gathered criticism which is stated in the paper under four heads. First, the project would necessarily entail violation of privacy and civil liberties of the people.

Second, it remains unclear whether biometric technology- the cornerstone of the project-is capable of the gigantic task of de-duplication. The Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) "Biometrics Standards Committee" has noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database of more than one billion persons "has not been adequately analysed" and the problem of fingerprint quality in India "has not been studied in depth".

Third, no cost-benefit analysis or feasibility report for the project has been made till now. Finally, the purported benefits of the project in the social sector, such as in the Public Distribution System (PDS), are "largely illusive," says the paper.

The paper also says that outrageous costs, technology gaps, privacy issues, political challenges, and lack of clear vision and mapping of the perceived benefits that can be accrued out of such an exercise are some factors that hinder viable and sustainable implementation of a national identity programme. Talking about the limitations and risks involved in the massive scale programme, the paper says that the complexities of a unique identity scheme become multifold for a nation like India, with over 1.2 billion population spread across 32,87,263 sq km, more than 35.16 per cent being illiterate (2001 census) and speaking 22 different languages, and following various religions.

Khalid said...

It is a minor detail that NADRA gave the database to the viceroy and his men. That may be the greatest identity theft in history. Another feather in the cap of NADRA. (Does that explain the speed with which the data has been computerized? I do not know.)

Riaz Haq said...

Khalid: "It is a minor detail that NADRA gave the database to the viceroy and his men."

If NADRA did it, it must have been a political decision, and it doesn't take away from the technical capabilities and accomplishments of Pakistani IT engineers who built the system.

Besides, NADRA denies any such transfers, according to The News:

ISLAMABAD: National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Chairman Brig (retd) Saleem Moin on Tuesday said that Nadra never transferred its data to any country, including the United States.

“Nadra has no link with any department or organisation of the United States,” he said in response to a question at a news briefing here. “Neither Nadra received such a request nor did it provide anything from its data to any other country, including the United States,” he added.

The Nadra chairman said that in the normal circumstances the authority did not provide its data to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but it had to share the data with the bureau when a court orders. “As per the Privacy Act, we cannot provide any data to any organisation,” he added.

Regarding the Nadra projects, he said that the authority would start working on a project assigned by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in July for registration of Afghan refugees after getting compensation amount.

“The $5.2 million project will also include issuance of computerised registration cards to Afghan refugees,” he said. He informed that the Punjab government had also assigned a project to Nadra for computerised census of provincial government’s employees. In this connection, the pilot project would be launched in Faisalabad district.

The official said that Nadra had already started working on two projects of World Bank for creating Management Information System (MIS) for distribution of cash to October 8 earthquake-affected people. In this connection, Nadra has so far enlisted 120,000 victims in two separate lists, who have received compensation in cash. “We will have complete record of earthquake affected people including their addresses and accounts who have received compensation,” he said.

He said that Automated Border Control (ABC) system is also ready for installation at all exit and arrival points at airport, railway station and other routes. According to this system, every Machine Readable Passport (MRP) would have an electronic chip having complete record of travellers.


http://www.thenews.jang.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=1134&Cat=13&dt=6/3/2006

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times revelation of Air India's basic safety violations:

NEW DELHI — When Bob Haygooni paid a midflight visit to a cockpit at his new employer, Air India, he was shocked. The pilots, he said, had completely covered the windows with newspaper to keep out the sun.

“All you had in the cockpit was this yellowish glow, as the light permeated the newspaper,” Mr. Haygooni recalled, saying it was a visibility hazard he had never seen before in 30 years of flying.
-----------
Interviews with more than a dozen experienced pilots hired in the last three years by Air India to work new international routes describe an airline with problems. But theirs are not the only complaints
----------
And the nation’s new civil aviation minister, Vayalar Ravi, vowed in an interview Wednesday not to close or sell the airline. “There is no question of Air India being shut or privatized,” he said. He said vested interests who “want to exploit the people for their own profit” were behind suggestions that India’s government give the airline up.

Still, Mr. Ravi said the airline had been mismanaged in the past — including the merging in 2007 of India’s domestic and international state-run airlines. “Nothing positive came out of the merger,” he said, and Air India has bought too many planes.

But the airline does “not make any compromises with maintenance and security,” Mr. Ravi said.
----------
Even some once-loyal customers are giving up on Air India.

“I think all Indians should just boycott the airline,” said Harjiv Singh, co-founder of Gutenberg Communications, a public relations company with offices in New York and Delhi.

Mr. Singh said he used to fly Air India’s business class regularly. But now he flies Continental’s direct flight to Newark, or one of a host of European carriers that stop in Europe before going on to New York.

Even inside the company, some executives are quietly calling for the end of government control. But Air India is popular with India’s central government because ministers and politicians can demand routes to connect their home states with the capital, New Delhi, even if they lose money.

“I feel like a woman with 1,000 husbands,” one male Air India executive complained, referring to the constant demands from government officials.

As in many other emerging-market countries, India had a severe pilot shortage about five years ago, as the number of passengers and airlines grew faster than the country could churn out new pilots. Airlines here responded to the pilot shortage by hiring expatriates, including hundreds from the United States, where — until the rules changed in 2007 — commercial pilots were forced to retire at age 60. In India, as most everywhere else, the retirement age has long been 65.

For many of those who joined Air India, the culture clash has been severe. Dozens left before their three-year contracts expired. Of the 186 foreign pilots hired since April 2007, Air India has just 36 left, the company said.

Pilots interviewed for this article expressed safety concerns about basic operations at Air India — particularly its training procedures, which many said were not adequate for teaching the hundreds of new pilots the airline needs for its expansion. Some, like Mr. Haygooni, spoke freely. Others insisted that their identities not be revealed because they said the industry did not reward whistle-blowers.

Air India is “just so far behind the ball I don’t know how they will ever catch up,” said Alexander Garmendia, 64, who joined Air India in 2009 after retiring from American Airlines. He trained at Air India’s headquarters in Mumbai for six weeks, but said he left in part because he was worried about safety.
...

Anonymous said...

Air India deserves to die. Our private carriers are far better. Let its death send a signal to all that India's growth in the last two decades has been due to its enterprising spirit of private enterprise and not useless govt enterprise.

Rashid said...

It is reputed that the Chinese overwhelm by sheer numbers. In their confrontations, there would be 300,000 men - only 3,000 were equipped - the rest were the obfuscation factor.

So now there are 160 mill new identities in the data base - good!!!
I am sure there will be many duplications and phantoms in there. Let Silicon Valley create algorithms to discern the good Mohammeds, Muhammads, Mohammads.......... from the bad.

So what - if the viceroy has the yellow pages and white pages combined in a 60 terrabyte searchable database with data of birth and family details thrown-in? Attitudes of the 160 million become apparent even without analyzing raw data of their names, addresses etc.

Identity concealment is an obsession with conservative "rednecks" here. I have never been convinced that there is any benefit to such concealment of identities.

In fact, as the science of genetics progresses, there should be benefits in the ability to identify and research blood-lines etc. This is in addition to the current benefits listed in Riaz's article. All of this would be impossible without the existence of centralized data bases. And if NADRA is at the leading edge - more power to them.

Munaf said...

NADRA is an arm of the Military to keep track of the civilian population. Financing and know-how is directly from the Military which eats up 16% of every Rupee in our country's budget!

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani IT companies win recognition in Malaysia, according to The Express Tribune:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani information technology (IT) companies won seven awards at the 10th International Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Pakistani companies secured the highest number of total awards.

The Silver Awards were secured in the Security Applications, E-Inclusion and E-Community, Financial Applications, Communications, E-Government and E-Health categories.

Pakistani companies won in the face of stiff competition from companies from 16 countries including Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. The Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) won the Silver Award in E-Government, Security and Communications while Avanza won the Silver Award in the highly competitive Financial Category and Cure MD won the Silver Award in the E-Health category. Aerocar and Solotech showed won the Silver Award in the E-nclusion & E-Community category.

Secretary Information Technology Nagib Ullah Malik invited the winners to discuss ways and means to bolster the IT industry in Pakistan and increase the adoption of locally developed IT products. He also praised the winning companies for earning a good name for the country while acknowledging the depth and creativity of the companies.

The chairman of Pakistan Association of Software Houses (PASHA) Ashraf Kapadia, Member IT Tariq Badshah and Managing Director Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) Zia Imran were also present at the occasion.

Malik also said that the wins at APICTA are a solid evidence of the support that the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) has provided to spur innovation in Pakistan. He recommended the PSEB to look into additional IT industry support programs including greater adoption of locally developed products in government and private sectors.

Malik added that minimal regulation and maximum incentives are needed to compete with countries such as Vietnam and Brazil.

Rahul said...

The article by DNA just criticises the policy, not the technology. I have read similiar criticisms in many magazines. These are activists who are only concerned about privacy laws, not the benefits. The UID is the most advanced system and for your information it is possible. Nobody said it would be done in a day. It would take atleast 5 years.

Do you know how fingerprints are being taken now. Today in any government office whether license, registry, it is mandatory to collect fingerprints. Also when you open an account in banks. The data garnered from all these sources will be fed in the system along with photographs to.

The same way India is going to develop NATGRID. Indian IT companies are totally world class and are quite capable of implementing it. Come and visit India some time, don't go on info given by others all the time.

Gourish said...

Totally off topic, but since you have blogged about this often, institute of chemical technology in mumbai has been ranked 4th as per research standards in the world..here is a link..
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/ict-ranked-4th-in-research-standards/136824/on

Anonymous said...

^^
Yup and IISc has been ranked #93 in the world for Science R&D.Overall it has a rank of 400+ because it has zero output in economics,social sciences etc etc which is what u would expect in a dedicated science post graduate institute.

Anonymous said...

I think your confusing yourself with policy benefits and technological prowess.....You need to go back to the drawing board with your thought process..on this one...your best option is to visit India and see the change happening first hand.....opinions in news articles and just that....they are just opinions.....India being a large sleeping Giant takes time to change....perhaps will take another 2 generations to see tangible change like what you see in china

Riaz Haq said...

While Pakistan fares badly, ranking 103 on a list of 125 nations, on CII-INSEAD Global Index of Innovation for 2011, it is included among the top 10 countries for the Innovation Efficiency sub-Index. These countries are Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Moldova, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Bangladesh.



This places Pakistan in 4th place on CII-Insead's Global innovation efficiency sub-index, 5 places ahead of India in 9th place, according to Economic Times of India:



India has improved its ranking in the global Innovation Efficiency Index to 9th position in 2011 from 101th last year on factors like political stability, R&D, market and business sophistication, according to a study.



Surprisingly, Pakistan was placed ahead of India at 4th position, the CII-INSEAD study said.



However, India has slipped on its ranking in the Global Innovation Index to 62nd position out of 125 countries in 2011 from 56th last year while Switzerland was at the top,



It said that a lot of Indian talent is returning home to the country and the youth in urban India are now more global than ever, "and they are quite in tune with new technologies, even ahead of the curve in many cases, as early adapters".



"Multinational corporations are making large investments in R&D outside of their headquarter countries, setting up R&D sites in low-cost emerging countries such as China and India to access global talent and take advantage of their proximity to target markets," the report said.



Indian major players such as Tata, Godrej, and Mahindras are shifting their focus towards the rapidly expanding middle-income group of customers by coming up with frugal innovations, keeping in mind the price sensitivity of Indian consumers, it said.




http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/india-moves-up-to-no9-on-global-innovation-efficiency-index/articleshow/9085252.cms



http://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii/GII%20COMPLETE_PRINTWEB.pdf



http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/12/intellectual-wealth-of-nations.html



http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/10/pakistans-28-billion-it-industry.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on Pakistan's Census 2011 currently underway:

The Statistics Division has requested some 0.2 million Pakistan Army officials to assist in providing security to the staff conducting the census and to help in collecting data, in case they are required.

“Army personnel will only respond to distress calls of enumerators in case they face resistance in sensitive areas of the state,” Secretary Statistic Division, Asif Bajwa, said on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Bajwa said, “The Pakistan Army, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and other paramilitary forces have offered to support the survey teams.” He however ruled out any resistance from miscreants in volatile areas of the country especially in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt. The census will cost Rs5 billion. After the 1998 census, Pakistan’s population was estimated to be 132 million while according to recent data the population has risen above 175 million. Apart from Pakistan, 73 countries have started the process.

Bajwa said that the first phase of the census, which is now underway, includes house listing. In this phase three forms will be distributed among the population and summary sheets of house materials will be compiled by 19th April. The main operation will begin on October 6 during which form 2A – a questionnaire related to demographic and social characteristics, literacy, geographical area, economic characteristics and fertility – will be circulated. The division has stated that no details will be made public till the completion of whole process.

“For the process, 146,270 enumerators – 90 per cent of which are teachers – have been appointed,” Bajwa said adding, “The final census report will be released in December.”

The staff conducting the census will be supervised by 3,626 district officers and tehsildars. Some 22,408 circle supervisors will also collect details of houses to conduct a detailed survey of urban and rural areas, Bajwa said.

He said that teams will conduct surveys in 25 divisions, 139 districts, 424 census districts, 533 tehsils, 62 towns, 1,470 urban union councils, 50,612 villages, 6,055 rural union councils, 62 towns of city districts, 174 municipal committees, 286 town committees and 43 cantonments.

Data will also be conducted in 14 tehsils of volatile Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which include Chitral, Dir, Malakand and Kohistan. House listing in various villages of Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan will also be undertaken. Bajwa said that the flood affected population will also be included. “We will go into every tent of the IDPs to ensure their count,” he said.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/145470/census-2011-army-to-respond-to-distress-calls-of-census-takers/

Riaz Haq said...

The Lahore-based Pepper.pk and Five Rivers Technologies made it to the number one spot across all categories on BlackBerry’s AppWorld on August 3 with their game Ninja Fruit Bash, developed for BlackBerry smartphones, according to a report in Express Tribune:

This was the third BlackBerry app developed by the local company to make it to number one on BlackBerry AppWorld.

Their other apps to reach number one include Photo Editor, an app that allows users to edit photographs from their hand-held devices, and LED Notifier, an app that blinks different colored LED for different contacts.

Mahe Zehra Husain, the Head of Operations and Product Management said “We are thrilled at this achievement. We already have two world number one utilities on BlackBerry AppWorld and adding a game to our family shows that not only can good code be developed for software utilities in Pakistan we can actually make amazing games as well!”

Ninja Fruit Bash Storyline

Ninja Fruit Bash follows the quest of a Ninja as he travels across China slicing tainted and poisoned fruit in order to save humanity.

The fruit is poisoned by the evil spirit of Orochi and is fatal if eaten. Orochi has turned fertile fruit gardens all over China into poisonous wasteland and our Ninja is on a mission – to return all the fruit gardens to their former glory.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/224923/pakistan-it-firm-tops-world-ranking-with-blackberry-game/

Here's more from Blackberrycool.com:

There’s a growing trend of taking iOS successes and porting them over to BlackBerry. We believe the trend was started by Smarter-Apps and from a strictly business perspective it makes a lot of sense. Sure, you could spend a long time working on a risky app that may or may not be a success, or you could take something that obviously makes money on another platform and bring it to the 40 million or so BlackBerry users. Considering the huge success of this strategy, as proved by Angry Farm, it makes you realize that a lot of these iOS developers are listening to the analysts more than the users.

Ninja Fruit Bash is the latest in this strategy and they’ve taken the success of Fruit Ninja to BlackBerry users. The app isn’t 100% of the fun you get on the iOS version and there are some limitations on the BlackBerry side such as the fact that not all devices have OpenGL support for 3D graphics. Ninja Fruit Bash on the Torch was a pretty smooth experience and it’s definitely a good start. The company will have to work a little harder to bring more of the user experience and graphics to the game but as a start it’s awesome.

http://www.blackberrycool.com/2011/07/21/ninja-fruit-bash-is-the-latest-ios-success-to-blackberry-clone/

Riaz Haq said...

NADRA has issued over half a million cards for Rs. 20,000 cash to each flood affected family in Sindh so far, according to The News:

The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has said 47 centres of its total 62 centres are operational in six districts, while the other centres have completed their task and are entertaining complaints from genuine applicants who

were unable to get themselves registered for the Pakistan Card.

Nadra Deputy Chairman Tariq Malik pointed out on Friday that Nadra’s centres were working in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan, Shaheed Benazirabad Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar and Sanghar, while 15 other centres were addressing complaints from those people who did not get themselves registered for Pakistan Cards.

He stated that throughout the process, Nadra ensured strong checks so that only deserving families belonging to the provincially notified calamity-hit areas could obtain the Pakistan Card.

Malik informed that Nadra had so far issued 592,651 Pakistan Cards to heads of rain-affected families in Sindh, 105,455 in Mirpurkhas, 240,227 in Badin, 79,946 in Tando Mohammad Khan and 156,324 in Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah), 8,011 in Tando Allahyar and 2,684 in Sanghar.

He said that Nadra had launched a mobile SMS service in collaboration with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and all operating telecom companies to determine a person’s existence in the beneficiary list for the Pakistan Card project to facilitate the rain-affected people in checking the status of their requests.

The eligibility of the applicant for the Pakistan Card can be checked by simply sending his/her CNIC number to the designated short code (i.e. 9777). In response, a text message will be sent from Nadra’s central server confirming CNIC existence in the beneficiary list. The intent to use this service is to assist the provincial and local governments in curtailing the rush at the centres and helping the flood victims by using the technology while this service was for free, he added.

Nadra, in addition to setting up centres, has also mobilised its mobile resources MRVs (Mobile Registration Vans) to process the CNIC for free in all the affected areas in coordination with the public representatives and district administrators, he added. He said that Nadra had also issued 77,833 CNICs for free to flood/rain-hit victims so far.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=77118&Cat=4

Riaz Haq said...

NADRA offers SMS verification service to check flood affectees, according to APP:

Islamabad—National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has initiated a mobile SMS service determine and check existence of flood-affected persons in the beneficiary list for Pakistan Card.

This service has been launched in collaboration with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and all mobile phone operators with the objective to assist provincial and local governments to curtail down rush at the centers and help the flood victims by using technology.

A senior official at NADRA on Monday told APP that the eligibility of the applicant for Pakistan Card can be checked by simply sending his/her Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number to the designated short code i.e. 9777.

In response, a text message will be sent from NADRA central server confirming CNIC existence in the beneficiary list, the official said and added the Authority ensures strong checks in the software so that only deserving families belonging to provincially notified calamity hit areas could obtain Pakistan Cards. He said the process of issuing Pakistan Cards is in progress as around 598,600 such Cards have been issued to flood affected families in Sindh.

Giving further details, he said around 105,455 Pakistan Cards in Mirpurkhas, 240,227 in Badin, 79,946 in Tando Muhammad Khan and 156,324 in Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah), 8011 in Tando Allahyar and 2684 in Sanghar have been issued.

http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=125035

Riaz Haq said...

Is India's unique ID scheme unraveling? asks Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

...two years after it launched, a parliamentary committee has given a thumbs-down to the setting up of a statutory National Identification Authority to bolster the scheme. A bill had been introduced in parliament last December to set up the authority.

The committee, in a recent report, raised concerns about access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling and securing confidential information by the government. UID authorities say that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure security and protection of data.

That's not all. There appears to be a valid concern about the possibility of illegal residents getting identification numbers. (The number is not proof of citizenship or residency. It only confirms identity after authentication.)

The parliamentary committee fears that "at a time when the country is facing a serious problem of illegal immigrants and infiltration from across the border", the number was being given out to every resident. "The committee is unable to understand the rationale for expanding the scheme to persons who are not citizens," the report said.

The committee has even questioned the implementation of the scheme, which has been held up as a success story by the authorities. It says it was originally meant for the poorest of the poor and then extended to all residents. But the committee says better-off Indians already possess many other forms of identity, and so asks how the number helps them. Authorities say the number will be a general proof of identity.

Also, the report wonders, how will the poorest of the poor be given numbers? For one, the authorities don't have proper data on the very poor - officially, 37% of India's 1.2 billion people live below the poverty line. But there are various estimates of the exact number of poor in India and one suggests that the true figure could be as high as 77%. So how does the number help in identifying the genuine beneficiaries?

Interestingly, the report points to the shelving of a similar identity project in the UK because of the huge costs, unreliable and untested technology and the risks to the safety and security of citizens. A London School of Economics report says that the UK project could turn out to be a "potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of the individuals".

Nandan Nilekani, head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, believes that the number can transform Indian politics by curbing theft and leakage of public funds. "It would make porous distribution mechanisms and our dependence on the moral scruples of the bureaucrats redundant," he says. But, clearly, a number of crucial questions need to be clarified before India can continue to crunch out the identity numbers.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16177163

Riaz Haq said...

The State Bank said on Wednesday that the value of e-banking transactions aggregated to Rs12 trillion during the second half of 2010-11, showing an increase of 19 per cent as compared to the first half of the year, according to a Dawn report:

The Payment Systems Half Yearly Review released by the State Bank here noted speedy rise in e-banking transactions in the country.

The volume of such transactions during the period under review reached 125.9 million depicting an increase of 15.5 per cent as compared to the first half of FY11, the review said, adding that the payment system infrastructure has maintained an overall growth trend for the second half of FY11.

However, the review also said that the volume and value of paper-based retail payments during the second half of FY11 were recorded as 177.3 million and Rs84.6 trillion respectively, indicating an increase of 3.5 per cent in the volume of transactions.

“The value of transactions has increased by 13.3 per cent as compared to the first half of FY11. The contribution of paper-based payments in total retail payment transactions was 58.5 per cent in terms of volume and 87.5 per cent in terms of value,” it added.

The review said the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), which are the largest channel of e-banking transactions, showed 16.5 per cent increase in number of transactions and 19 per cent increase in value raising the share of ATM transactions in total e-banking transactions to 58.8 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively, the review said.

It said the number of Real-Time Online Branches (RTOB) transactions grew by 14.7 per cent and the value of transactions increased by 18.8 per cent as compared to first half of FY11. “These transactions contributed 31.6 per cent in total volume of e-banking and 93.2 per cent in the value of such transactions respectively,” the review observed.

According to the review, as many as 466 more Automated Teller Machines were added bringing the total number of ATMs to 5,200 while 380 more bank branches were converted into Real Time Online Branches (RTOBs).

“A total of 7,416 bank branches (78 per cent) are now offering real time online banking out of a total of 9,541 branches in the country. The number of plastic cards at 14 million also registered an increase of 6.2 per cent during the period under review as compared to the numbers during the preceding half year,” the Review added.

The overall increasing trend in payment system infrastructure was also witnessed in the large value payments settled through Pakistan Real-time Inter-bank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM), which increased by 14.8 per cent in volume and 21.9 per cent in terms of value as compared to the first half of FY11.

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/29/electronic-payments-reach-rs12tr.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Benazir Income Support program in Pakistan:

Clutching photocopied ID cards in bony fingers, a roomful of Pakistan's poorest women sit on gray plastic chairs and wait in silence for something many have never experienced: a little bit of help from the government.

It comes in the form of a debit card that is topped up with the equivalent of $30 every three months, enough to put an extra daily meal on the table, buy a school uniform or pay for medical treatment in a country where soaring food and fuel costs are hurting millions who already live hand-to-mouth.

The program is something of a success story for a government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, as well as for international donors that help implement and fund it. But the very need for the scheme highlights the poverty stalking a country whose stability is seen as key to the fight against Islamist extremism.

Other cash-transfer programs in Pakistan have been plagued by graft and allegations that only supporters of the party in power received the funds. Many feared this program, named after Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, would go the same way.

But that hasn't happened, at least not significantly. The Benazir Income Support Programme is modeled on similar efforts in Africa and South America, part of a quiet revolution in the way countries and development agencies are helping the poor. Initial concerns that recipients would fritter away the money have proven unfounded, and giving cash is now accepted as a vital and cost-effective aid tool.

"I spend the money on my kids, what else would I do?" said Rifat Parveen, a mother of five who sometimes has to serve only bread and boiled chili peppers for the evening meal. "Even if a poor person gets 10 rupees (5 cents), he or she will be grateful."

When a woman is called, she goes to a room where her identity is checked against an electronic database and her thumb print taken electronically. A bank employee then gives her the card — and a crash course in how to use it — before she returns to her village.

As they do elsewhere in the world, women in Pakistan must receive the money on behalf of their families because research shows they spend it more responsibly than men do. They must also first obtain a valid identity card to be eligible. Both requirements have been credited with pushing women, discriminated against in Pakistan, a little into the mainstream.


http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/in-pakistan-welfare-scheme-shows-signs-success/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on PM Gilani's plan to promote online education in Pakistan's under-served areas:

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has announced that the federal government will allocate Rs17 billion for the development of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and broadband connectivity in un-served areas in the next budget.

Addressing the third convocation of Virtual University at the Expo Centre here on Saturday, the prime minister said that education in general and science and technology education in particular were “a matter of life and death” for the nation.

He said his government had already spent Rs22 billion on IT. He also announced an IT award of Rs20 million for talented students from backward areas.

Gilani said that broadband centres would be established in each union council and these would provide 30,000 jobs this year. He also announced the establishment of 30 more Virtual University campuses throughout the country including in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The prime minister directed the IT minister to expedite the awarding of contracts for 3G mobile technology in Pakistan.

He said that this technology would create jobs and promote development. He said that he had directed the finance minister to create 100,000 jobs in the budget for 2012-13.

“An educated Pakistan, which is the vision of Virtual University, is in line with my government’s determination to provide an affordable and quality education to all at the same time. I want the university to undertake expansion projects and increase its nationwide presence. I have already approved, in principle, the setting up of a custom-built Virtual University campus in every district of the country. I am very glad to hear that the first four campuses under this initiative have already started functioning,” he said.

Gilani said though education was a provincial subject after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the federal government was “committed to increasing the share of GDP for education in line with the Millennium Development Goals”.

Pakistan currently has one of the lowest rates in the world of spending on education as a proportion of GDP.

The prime minister praised Virtual University for its “quality and innovative techniques of delivery”. He noted that the university’s open course ware website had been recognised as the best in the world by the Open Courseware Consortium that included such world leaders as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Yale.

Gilani said that the government was planning to raise the rate of enrolment in higher education significantly in coming years. “The only way this quantitative and qualitative growth can take place is through an effective use of technology for the dissemination of education for students residing in all areas of the country. I am glad that Virtual University is playing its due role in this respect,” he added


http://tribune.com.pk/story/381449/it-infrastructure-pm-announces-rs17-billion-for-broadband/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on the success of identity management in Pakistan:

Tens of thousands of people flock to Nadra centres across Pakistan each day to apply for fresh cards, renew the old ones or get their personal information corrected.
"This is one of the world's largest national databases”

Tariq Malik Deputy Chairman of Nadra

They need these cards as the basic document for a wide range of activities: opening a bank account, finding a job, getting admission in a college or a university, registering as a voter, getting a passport, buying or selling property, setting up a business.

Pakistan's experience with identity management dates back to 1973, when the eastern part of the country had just seceded and questions were being raised over who was a Pakistani and who was not.

So a registration act was introduced in the parliament to create an authority that would register Pakistani citizens and issue them with a photo ID.

In 2001, this authority was merged with a national database organisation to create Nadra, with the task of computerising all citizen data.

In 2007, Nadra introduced what is known as the multi-biometric system, consisting of finger identification and facial identification data that was to be included in the citizen's computer profile.

"By now, Nadra has issued 91 million computer generated cards, which is 96% of the entire adult population," says Nadra deputy chairman Tariq Malik.

"This is one of the world's largest national databases."

"During the last 40 years, we have graduated from identity management to database management, and we have now entered an era in which we can make intelligent use of this database to make our economic and political processes transparent and also to roll out services to the citizens," he says.

For example, Nadra has been using this database to identify mutilated bodies of the victims of a suicide bombing or an air crash.

It also uses it to identify people affected by natural disasters or groups below poverty line who need to be listed for the government's financial inclusion programmes.

Following the 2010 floods, the government used this information to disburse nearly 55 billion rupees ($586m; £381m) of donor funds to more than 2.4 million affected families.

"They were issued automated teller machine (ATM) cards with pin codes to draw cash from "virtual" accounts even though most of them had never opened a bank account in their lives," says Mr Malik.

More recently, Nadra cleaned up Pakistan's voters' list, expunging some 37 million "fake" voters from it and adding more than 36 million new adults who had not been registered.

It now plans to set up a short message service (SMS) to tell voters exactly which polling station they are registered at.

"This will disenfranchise the 'powers' that used fake votes and ghost polling stations to engineer elections throughout Pakistan's chequered electoral history," Mr Malik says.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18101385

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBM press release in Sacramento Bee on its contract for mobile banking technology in Pakistan:

KARACHI, Pakistan, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that Monet, one of Pakistan's leading mobile-commerce providers, has selected a customized IBM cloud-based solution that will enable the company to enhance service efficiency and expand its presence across the country.

Launched in 2012, Monet provides banks, mobile network operators and branchless banking agents in Pakistan with a technology platform that offers end-users a simple interface through which they can access a wide range of financial services on their mobile phones.

Mobile banking and financial services are expected to grow significantly in Pakistan in the coming years. Increased demand for affordable banking, a lack of traditional banking infrastructure and an aggressive branchless banking mandate from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has driven quick uptake of mobile banking in the country.

With a population of 180 million, a mobile phone penetration of more than 70% and a banked ratio of only 22%, Pakistan offers a large potential market for Mobile Financial Services (MFS). According to an SBP recent branchless banking newsletter, the number of mobile banking accounts was at 1.45 million, showing a growth of 37% during the second quarter of 2012, with new level zero account openings registering a jump of 370%. The existing accounts activity level also improved substantially during the quarter as the number of active accounts increased by 66%.1

To capture this opportunity, Monet chose IBM to develop a unique IT environment allowing the company to offer reliable and efficient services to a growing customer base throughout the country.

"Mobile financial services have reached an inflection point where they have moved from niche to mainstream," said Ali Abbas Sikander, CEO, Monet. "We believe mobile can potentially become the strongest channel for the delivery of financial services. IBM's cloud solution will allow us to reach our clients easily, giving us access to a wider base of customers and ultimately extending the reach of financial services in the country."

IBM will develop a specialized solution based on IBM SmartCloud technology, to deploy Monet's mobile banking applications from Fundamo, a leading mobile financial services platform provider and an IBM partner. The private cloud will allow Monet to save on initial investments in IT and help the company offer more efficient services at a reduced cost.

IBM SmartCloud infrastructure is based on IBM servers, storage and software optimized to meet growing mobile demand. In addition, Monet has outsourced the entire networking, security, cryptographic solutions, and disaster recovery to IBM, in order to focus on its core business.

"Mobile and Cloud are a powerful combination to provide sustainable and affordable banking services to millions of people in Pakistan," said Adnan Siddiqui, CGM, IBM Pakistan and Afghanistan. "IBM has global experience in the financial services sector and a thorough understanding of the local market, and our engagement with Monet is expected to benefit banking customers across the country."..


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/01/4953392/leading-pakistan-mobile-banking.html

http://www.monet-online.com/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story on benefits of Pak biometric ID cards:

Elderly men wait patiently, carefully combing their hennaed beards, while a guitar-playing student entertains the long queue of Pakistanis lined-up to be photographed, fingerprinted and questioned inside a crowded office in the capital Islamabad.
--
...bureaucrats say the successful ID registration has dramatically cut the number of ghost voters and is assisting in the distribution of cash payments for the poor and displaced.

"The database has brought a lot of transparency. We signed up so many people," said Tariq Malik, the 44-year-old chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

During elections five years ago, less than half of Pakistani adults had a government-issued ID. Now 91 percent have the plastic green cards, said Malik, who previously worked as a county technology officer in Michigan in the United States.

It is hard to verify such a high rate of registration as Pakistan's census data is many years out of date.

Malik said registration spiked after the cards were required for poor Pakistanis to qualify for cash payments from the government.

However, some families, while grateful for the cash, say the flow of aid is sporadic.

"One year ago when I received a card, I got 2,000 rupees. They come after every two to three months and give a little bit of money. Now they come only after six to seven months and only give 3,000 rupees," said Hanifa Meer Beher, 6o, who lives in Karachi's coastal belt Kaka-pir village.

"This money is not enough and it has not made my life any better. I am a poor woman. Whenever I receive this money, I buy a little bit of flour, rice...I am grateful that I am getting something."

International donors like the World Bank, who are using the ID database for cash distributions, say they are happy with the system.

The bank helps fund a program where around 5.5 million poor families who have registered with NADRA get $10 a month.

"More countries are using cash transfers because poor families can choose what to buy and are more likely to get the money on time than aid given in other ways," said a World Bank spokesman.

Neighbouring India helps its poor via subsidized food or fuel, but much of its aid is stolen and ends up on the black market. Recent efforts to link benefits to identity cards there have been chaotic.

GHOST VOTERS, TAX CHEATS

Pakistan's new ID registrations helped eliminate 37 million ghost voters and add around 44 million real people to electoral roles, said Malik, adding voters can now use their ID number to check their registration by text message. A date has not yet been set for the next election, due in the first half 2013.

In future, the ID database may also help in the fight against tax evasion, fraud and crime, but only if the government uses the information, say sceptics like tax expert Ikramul Haq.

In a country where less than one percent of citizens pay income tax, NADRA has identified more than 2 million rich tax cheats, Malik said.

The federal board of revenue estimates tax evasion means as much as US$50 billion is missing from the treasury, money that could be used to upgrade crumbling schools and hospitals.

But so far, Pakistan's wealthy tax cheats remain untouched, yet authorities, mindful of pressure from the International Monetary Fund, are making noises about cracking down.

"We have so many enemies. The rich, who are not accustomed to pay taxes, pension cartels, politicians who want their voters to get benefits they are not entitled to," said Malik.

Registering Pakistan's 180 million population, spread from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayas, meant sending mobile registration vans and skiers laden with bulky equipment to far-flung villages and setting up booths at fairs....


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/22/us-pakistan-identity-idUSBRE8AL0Y620121122

Riaz Haq said...

Application and deployment of information technology is now happening in many areas well beyond offices and banks.

Recent examples include growing online education, automated meter reading and IT infrastructure in the power distribution industry, growing use of IT in mobile banking and Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), and a Shehzad Roy sponsored program for teachers to check in and out using a Limton finger identification machine to reduce teacher absenteeism at schools.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Finextra report on mobile money in Pakistan:

A shared mobile money network, built on Visa's Fundamo technology, that can be tapped by banks and telcos is preparing to launch in Pakistan.
Monet - which was set up by the massive Abu Dhabi Group last year - has now secured approval from the State Bank of Pakistan to build its network, which is being offered to local firms planning to launch mobile money services.

Built on Fundamo technology, Monet says its offering will provide a managed service platform, agent management services and bill aggregation services to new financial institutions and network operators interested in entering branchless banking services.

The first clients are Pakistan's sixth largest financial institution, Bank Alfalah, and Warid Telecom, who have teamed up to launch a new brand on the platform.

Monet says that its network will make it cheaper, easier and quicker for firms to tap into Pakistan's huge unbanked market. According to the Pakistan Access to Finance Survey, only 12% of the population has access to formal financial services, yet mobile penetration stands at nearly 70%, says the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that 35% of the country's adult population will be using mobile financial services by 2020.

Ali Abbas Sikander, CEO, Monet, says: "We are building an open and collaborative eco-system which benefits all the stakeholders of the financial services ecosystem in Pakistan. Collaborative mobile financial services, as opposed to bank-led or telco-led deployment, is the paradigm shift which will assist in creating a bigger and less costly enabling environment for the issuers, acquirers and service providers."

Aletha Ling, COO, Fundamo, adds: "The platform allows service providers to think big, start small and scale fast. The result will be an ecosystem that that will support the long term and sustained growth of the Pakistani mobile financial services market."


http://www.finextra.com/News/FullStory.aspx?newsitemid=24626

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on State Bank of Pakistan governor talking about mobile banking:

...The central policy objectives of SBP are to ensure safety, soundness and efficiency of the banking system, and to protect the interest of consumers, he said, adding that since branchless banking is becoming a vital component of the national payment grid, it is prudent for all stakeholders to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to mitigate inherent risks associated with it like access by unauthorised persons or criminals such as hackers, money launderers, terrorist financiers etc.

He said being fully cognisant of the risk factors involved in such unconventional modes of banking, SBP has been proactively monitoring developments and associated risks both at system and entity level in order to take appropriate corrective measures in a timely manner.

The SBP governor said that branchless banking has also proved to be an effective instrument in channelising the government to persons (G2P) payments in trying times like serving internally displaced persons (IDPs), and devastating floods for the last two years. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries are also being served effectively through the same mechanism, he said, adding that In the coming days, this channel is expected to continue playing an important role towards the promotion of financial inclusion and the management of G2P programmes like salaries disbursements, pensions, BISP, Watan Cards, Pakistan Cards and tax collections services, etc. The existing branchless banking deployments can cater to the needs of over 10 million potential beneficiaries of G2P payments in Pakistan, he added.

Anwar said that four branchless banking models including Easy Paisa, Omni, Mobile Cash and Time Pey are fully operational while two are running live pilots. He said that the branchless banking current growth trajectory is expected to get further steeper in the years ahead.

He said that the number of agent network servicing branchless banking customers has reached 42,000. Therefore, the basic financial services can now be accessed in the remotest parts of the country through any of these agents. Approximately 194 million transactions worth Rs 813 billion and more than 2.0 million m-wallets have been opened till date, he said, adding that numbers will improve significantly. The infrastructure of payment systems and branch network is also showing an increasing growth trend, he said adding that the ATMs network has increased to 6,232 whereas branch network has reached 11,600 while 94 percent of our branches are now real time on-line. Similarly, the number of plastic cards has increased to 20 million and the number of POS machines has increased to 34,000 units. This is a significant achievement, and this also demonstrates the opportunity to bring the benefits of this infrastructure to millions of the unbanked population, he added.

While acknowledging that branchless banking has gained critical mass in a short period of time, the SBP governor was of the view that the market has to start shifting transactions from first generational services (person-to-person/bills payments) to second generational services (account-to-account and inter-bank transfer). The players need to expand their product portfolio by offering new products and services for their target market. In my view, this is part of an inevitable evolution which will ensure the long-term sustainable development of the sector, encourage micro savings and help in meeting the demands for inclusive financial services of the target market, he added.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\03\15\story_15-3-2013_pg5_1

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on NADRA software to enable Pak diaspora to vote in national elections:

In compliance with an order of the Supreme Court, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has devised a software to help 4.5 million overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the coming general elections.

The $1.5 million software will help overseas Pakistanis in 15 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France and Australia, to vote at 150 polling stations. However, approval of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be required to prepare required legislation.

Nadra chairman Tariq Malik said at a news conference that a detailed briefing would be given to ECP on the software on Monday and if the ECP approved it, a briefing would be arranged for the Supreme Court.

The chairman said that almost 70 per cent of overseas Pakistanis were living in Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries where there was a ban on political gatherings and rallies. Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have to get permission for polling process in those countries, he added.

“Permission from those countries and travel arrangements of Nadra officers have to be completed by April 5 because establishment of polling stations for e-voting will be a lengthy process. One computer, printer, thumb digitiser and secure internet connection will be required at every poling station,” he said.

Mr Malik said overseas Pakistanis would get the facility of e-voting through embassies. Polling stations will be set up in designated missions. A biometric system will also be installed in the poling stations to avoid casting of bogus votes.

On the polling day voters will have to come to the polling station. They will be required to produce machine readable passports and National Identity Cards. The process of voting will be simple and the vote will be cast in the ECP database without recording identity of the voter.

On completion of polling, the ECP will have electronic results available in its database. Constituency-wise aggregated result will be printed by the ECP and faxed to returning officers for inclusion in preliminary results. “Although software appears to be safe, it has never been used in Pakistan, so Nadra will suggest that polling for overseas Pakistanis should be arranged two or three days prior to elections,” he said.


http://dawn.com/2013/04/01/nadra-develops-15m-software-for-voters-abroad/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time Magazine article on Enernet---the use of information technology(IT) and Big Data in power grids:

Cutting energy waste is first and foremost a data challenge. You can’t cut waste until you know what you’re wasting, and most of us have only the slightest idea. Standard electricity meters take one reading for an entire month. Imagine trying to diet if all you knew was the total amount of food you ate every four weeks. Says Bennett Fisher, CEO of the building-efficiency start-up Retroficiency: “You need data to make energy saving work.”

We’ve got the data, thanks to the growth of smart, Internet-enabled sensors that can read and relay energy use almost in real time. A host of new big-data companies are figuring out how to crunch that information so energy users from huge factories to individual households can track and reduce waste. This combination of energy technology with the Internet–the industry calls it the Enernet–is the hottest sector in clean tech, in part because it relies on relatively cheap, easily scalable software rather than on the expensive factories needed for, say, making solar panels. “It’s much more capital-efficient,” says Roy Johnson, CEO of EcoFactor, an energy-management start-up.

And efficiency is what the Enernet is all about. Take Virginia-based Opower, one of the oldest and most successful Enernet companies. Opower began by offering homeowners the chance to compare their power use with their neighbors’. Just knowing whether they were energy hogs or energy saints–along with following Opower’s energy-efficiency tips–was enough to reduce waste among homeowners. But as smarter meters taking dozens of readings per day have begun to gather more-granular data, Opower has been able to offer much more. The company sorts through the data collected by smart meters to help customers identify exactly where the waste is occurring and how it can be reduced. “These are things we could never do without big-data analytics,” says Dan Yates, CEO of Opower.

For utilities, big data can be even more powerful and valuable for the bottom line. Smarter energy management can keep overloaded grids running and prevent the need for new, expensive plants. Energy use isn’t constant throughout the day or the year, but because utilities keep power running 24/7, they need to have spare capacity to accommodate spikes. Even if it isn’t needed all the time, that extra power has to be generated, usually by polluting and costly coal or gas plants. Companies like AutoGrid help utilities spread out the demand for energy, smoothing the spikes and reducing the need for unused excess power. AutoGrid’s algorithms sort through the petabytes of data from smart meters–adjusting for variables like weather–and spit out solutions that let utilities and their customers automatically shift nonessential electricity use to nonpeak times. The Enernet can also help utilities make better use of wind and solar power, compensating when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Amit Narayan, AutoGrid’s CEO, estimates that his company’s algorithms can help utilities get about 30% more power out of existing resources.

If we’re ever going to truly clean up our electrical grid, we’ll need to replace coal and natural gas with zero-carbon sources like solar or nuclear while improving efficiency. It won’t be easy or cheap. But a smarter, more efficient grid–enabled by the same intelligence that brought us the Internet–can help smooth that transition.


http://business.time.com/2013/03/28/smart-power/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story of a Pakistani tech entrepreneur recognized at MIT:

Farhan Masood, who has been recognised among the world’s brilliant minds by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum earlier this year for his product – world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm called SmartXS.
Masood’s dream – to build a Pakistani product and turn it into a global one – came true this year after he won the MITEFP Business Acceleration Plan contest, a highly competitive annual event that lasts for 4 months to handpick and select one among hundreds and there is one such brilliant mind produced every year by BAP from Pakistan. The objective of BAP is to help Pakistani IT, ITES, telecom and new media companies improve their business.
Of the 165 participants that compete in this contest, some members of top teams also get a chance to attend an entrepreneurship development programme at MIT in Cambridge, USA.

After a winning performance in the contest, Masood joined the list of MIT alumni. He has just returned after attending a course at MIT, one of the world’s best educational institutes. Those who attended this programme previously had benefited a great deal.
According to Pakistan Software Export Board’s website, some of the companies that participated in this programme saw their revenues grow by 5 to 10 times and valuation increase by 15 times. Giving the example of Sofizar, the PSEB’s website stated that the company’s revenue increased from less than $1 million to $30 million in two and a half years.
Masood, too, seem to benefit from the programme as his product has been well received by both MITEFP and the industries worldwide. “MIT Enterprise Forum has done tech evaluation of SmartXS, which is a big achievement,” Masood told The Express Tribune. “When your product is recognised by MIT, there is not much you can ask for.”
Interestingly, the man behind this technology is a college dropout who hated math for he was weak in the subject. “I have got all of this achievement because of my passion,” the 36-year-old Lahorite said.
Masood is the CEO of Solo Smart that’s based in Lahore and has offices in the UK and USA, represented by its subsidiaries namely Solo Tech and Solo Metrics respectively. It also has an office in Australia.
“We are trying to bring all these companies under one name – Solo Metrics. It is a high-tech company that deals in Mechatronics – a combination of software, electrical and mechanical engineering,” he said.
SmartXS is a biometric verification system that uses human face and eye to verify his identity, Masood said, and works mainly in two spaces – workforce management and security access control.
“Our algorithm is very fast,” he said while claiming it is the world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm.
The product was first brought to life in 2005 and its hardware was as big as a refrigerator, but now it’s smaller than a PC, Masood said. It has started to get worldwide recognition.
He said his product is currently used by the National Database and Registration Authority, the Pakistan Army and many multinational groups including Pepsico, Nestle and Tetra Pak. These companies are in talks with Masood for the implementation of the technology in their global operations....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/576597/mit-recognises-pakistani-as-one-of-worlds-brilliant-minds/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune piece on how the Punjab govt in Pakistan is using smartphones ad mobile apps:

As our anti-dengue campaign progressed, we bought 1,500 Android phones and kept refining our applications. The system was used by 17 different government departments and hundreds of field workers, and we have received over 200,000 pictures from all over Punjab. We developed more applications that enabled field entomologists to report Aedes Larvae clusters, as well as health workers to GPS tag the houses of the confirmed patients. With this data flowing in, we built a state-of-the-art epidemic early warning system, which statistically analysed the larvae reports and patient locations, and raised red flags wherever it detected a potential outbreak. This information was promptly shared with the local government to help it target its activities in the most vulnerable areas.
This system has led to a full-blown real-time disease surveillance system in Punjab, tracking all 26 WHO notifiable infectious diseases. Cross-verification of data from our dashboard has become a common practice in the government. The system has been featured by the MIT Technology Review, The Economist, NPR and BBC.
Encouraged by the success of our system for tracking disease outbreaks, the PITB has been working on numerous applications to help the government monitor its own work. Drug inspectors now carry our smartphones to report their visits to pharmacy outlets; visits of livestock EDOs are tracked using our smartphone applications; Lahore police uses our smartphone applications to analyse crime hotspots; agriculture extension workers report their activities using our smartphone applications; the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) uses smartphone applications to report its cleaning activities after Eidul Azha; this year, monitoring of Hajj facilities for pilgrims was done using our smartphone-based applications. Such is the adoption of our systems that over 25,000 geo-tagged activities were uploaded by the LWMC during the three-day Eid campaign a few days ago. And the chief minister Punjab personally reviewed this data, after every hour!
Going forward, we are developing a platform, in collaboration with the World Bank, which would enable people without an IT background to generate a monitoring application by simply dragging-and-dropping components. We are experimenting with increasingly advanced features. For example, our application for the irrigation department is designed such that the picture of a depth-metre is automatically processed to extract the level of water in a canal — making it difficult to hide the theft of irrigation water in tail canals.
Our model of mobile governance, or m-governance, is quickly taking root in Punjab. The rapid adoption, level of innovation and sophistication of our evolving systems is unprecedented in public sector organisations, especially in developing countries. In the coming year, seven major government departments will heavily start using our smartphone-based monitoring systems — employing over 30,000 smartphones. If we manage to keep our momentum, Pakistan may become one of the leading examples of innovations in m-governance.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/631041/punjabs-model-of-m-governance/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Hindu BusinessLine report on cloud computing apps in Pakistan:

Emerging markets such as Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia are adopting cloud-based applications at a faster rate than India, according to Doug Hughes, Vice-President, Product Management (JAPAC), Application Development, Oracle, the $35-billion US-based IT company.

In the last few years, India has moved to a dominant market from an emerging market. However, countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia are challenging India by deploying cloud rapidly. Starting with a low base, cloud-based application gives them the flexibility not to invest in hardware or software but to rent them on a monthly basis, he told Business Line.

However, adoption of cloud-based applications in India is faster than in China, he said without giving any data.

While small- and medium-size Indian companies are embracing cloud, there is hesitancy among large companies on security concerns. Bridging the gap between conventional cloud solutions and traditional company applications is emerging as a growing trend across segments, he said.

Managing consulting company Zinnov said cloud computing market in India is expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2015 with SMEs driving the growth.

The bigger the company, the bigger the decision making team. New customers are willing to consider cloud, but not the old ones. “We need to address too many questions raised by big companies especially on security. We need to find within big businesses a few champions who truly believe on cloud. For small business I do not need as they are the champions,” said Hughes. Oracle offers applications in a public, private or hybrid cloud, he said.

“With a large customer we start the discussion with the success in Australia. They will listen to it but say show me somebody who has done here. If it is not done here, it does not exist. I cannot say why clients here do not feel ready. The challenge is how to make them comfortable with cloud,” he said.

Companies need not deploy the entire suite of cloud-based solutions but pick up a HR or supply chain management application. Oracle is not going behind customers to change the entire spectrum of customer base from the very large company to the smallest – consider cloud as a solution, he said.


http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/info-tech/emerging-nations-adopt-cloud-apps-faster-says-oracle/article5375713.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on biometric verification of SIM cards for cellular phones in Pakistan:

Zong has become the first mobile operator in Pakistan to implement Biometric Verification System (BVS) at their customer service centres. The installation of the Biometric Verification System displays the commitment of Zong towards Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) directives, highlighting its compliance and contributions to the national policies implementation.

SIM verification mechanisms were first introduced in Pakistan in 2007-2008. Initially, all the SIMs were verified by NADRA through an offline channel. In 2009, a new method was introduced where customers had to call 789 after inserting their SIM for the first time and verify their NADRA record to activate their SIM. From 2009 to 2012, a SMS-based SIM verification process was introduced in four different phases. However, none of these measures helped PTA overcome the problem of unregistered SIMs. Hence, PTA is now encouraging telecom operators to start offering biometric system to have a foolproof system to curtail unregistered SIMs.

The new verification system introduced by Zong will require each citizen to approach the retailer, franchisee or customer service centres of Zong and provide their fingerprints for authentication against CNIC data held with NADRA. Upon verification, the SIM will be activated. The entire operation will be performed online and it will take 15 seconds for the whole process to complete.

PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah commended Zong for being the first telecom operator to introduce Biometric SIM Verification System. He said, “PTA is dedicated to curbing sale of illegal SIMs in Pakistan for which it is working with all the industry stakeholders to ensure seamless implementation of Biometric SIM Verification System. We have defined a set of SOPs for the rollout of this technology through which sale of SIMs will be done in a more secure manner.” The first SIM activated at Zong’s customer care centre through the Biometric Verification System was given to PTA DG Enforcement Abdus Samad.

The system was demonstrated real-time to the leading journalists and the media community by Zong CPO Sikander Naqi. On the occasion he said: “Zong is fully committed for the enhancement and improvement of security protocols in the telecommunication industry. Therefore, we have exhibited our corporate responsibility by establishing the Biometric Verification System at our customer care centres. This technology will be gradually inducted across all franchises and customer care centres of Zong around the country.”

Since earlier this year, PTA and the government of Pakistan have emphasised the need to setup technological measures to ensure the protection of customer information and to curb the selling of illegal SIMS in the country. In the wake for boosting national security and addressing the ministries concern, Zong has become the torch-bearer in Pakistan’s telecom industry stepping up to the arduous task under the guidelines issued by PTA and with the support of NADRA.

Pakistan has a growing cellular market and the adoption of fingerprint matching technology by cellular operators shall reduce the risk of SIM issuance against fake identity to almost zero and safeguard the sale of illegal SIMs in the country.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C11%5C29%5Cstory_29-11-2013_pg5_9

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on SMS award for Election Commission of Pakistan:

The Election Commission of Pakistan has won its first ever international award today, as an international parliamentary organization acknowledged its services for promoting democracy during the elections.
The win was announced at the International Electoral Awards 2013 held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The ECP was nominated for this award by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies on its launching of services for millions of voters to verify their votes through the ‘8300 SMS Service’ prior to the May 2013 elections.
The ECP won the Accessibility Award, beating other finalists, the Republic of the Philippines Commission on Elections and the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa.
“Khizer Aziz, Director General IT, today, received an award in Malaysia,” a senior ECP official told The Express Tribune.
The ECP also received applause from several other parliamentary organizations on its active role for conducting fair polls in Pakistan.
The winning system
In a bid to remove errors from electoral lists, the Election Commission of Pakistan had launched an SMS service to facilitate 85 million voters to verify their votes before the general elections this year.
The service had been launched in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority to help registered voters check the status of their votes and other particulars.
Registered voters could send their Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) number without hyphens via SMS to 8300 at anytime from anywhere in the country.
After sending the SMS, the voter would subsequently receive a message containing their name, village, city, tehsil or district, location (electoral area) and the serial number of vote registered in the preliminary electoral rolls. The system later also provided the address of their polling station.
Usage
More than 51.8 million citizens used the SMS service to verify their voting information ahead of the May 11 polls.
A whopping 29.2 million voters between the ages of 18 and 35-years-old used the service, according to details provided by NADRA. Over 10.4 million people belonged to the 36 to 46-year-old age bracket, 6.7 million from 46 to 56-years old, 4 million voters from the 56 to 66 age bracket and 1.5 million from the age of 66 and above.
Some 28.8 million voters hailed from urban areas and 23 million voters from rural areas.

Earlier, the ECP had been nominated for launching the “World’s Biggest Voters SMS Service” of over 83 million data density and for over 100 million mobile users in the country in ‘one go” by the Guinness World Records.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/641092/ecps-8300-sms-system-wins-international-award/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is poised to crack down on cyber crime as part of an effort to enhance digital commerce in the country, according to an article in The Nation. Senator Ishaq Dar, the country’s Finance Minister, announced yesterday that new legislation is forthcoming.

Senator Dar highlighted the importance of branch-less banking for Pakistan’s economy, and argued that electronic banking could reduce the rates of fraud while providing greater financial access to the most underprivileged segments of the nation. He said that the government’s efforts “to improve market structure and efficiency through modern infrastructure… will create jobs for lower income people, facilitate poverty alleviation, and promote human capital development.”

The minister also highlighted a new agreement between the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) as a part of this effort; the agreement is to implement biometric identification methods into banking services nationwide, an effort similar to one recently undertaken in Nigeria that will undoubtedly go a long way towards enhancing the security of digital banking. Pakistan’s efforts in these regards also echo those of its neighbor India, where the government is compiling a biometric registry of citizens to help facilitate a range of government services including provision of health care.

http://findbiometrics.com/pakistan-embraces-digital-banking-in-bid-for-growth/