Smart cards have multiple advantages, not only for technology providers but also for various government departments. However, with the use of smart cards by government agencies, the problem of non-operability and vendor lock-in surfaced. The software and data on a chip introduced by one department was not read by the other department.
We at the NIC worked out a technology pact wherein the same technology can be adopted by all stakeholders going ahead in the area of smart cards.
Therefore, a need was felt to adopt a standard for smart cards. Gaps existed even in the case of cards which were claimed to be based on ISO standards. We took the challenge and plugged the gaps in standardisation. When we got over the problem we had first-of-a-kind technology standards in the world. We call these practically implementable technology standards for smart cards.
The purpose of developing these standards was to free technology from the hands of a few vendors. These standards actually provided the required ingredient or the ecosystem for any smart card based e-governance system to operate and ensure that there is no vendor or technology lock-in.
NIC in collaboration with STQC (Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification) has also set up a lab, which certifies if a smart card complies with these standards or not.
These smart cards are not only used for authentication but can also store data of an individual’s entitlements. The data written on these chips cannot be tampered and therefore its authenticity can be relied upon. Reading the data and making requisite changes was possible only in a robust secure infrastructure, therefore the data tampering is ruled out.
With these standards, interoperability was facilitated. The fact that one need not change chips after the vendor’s contract is over, attracted a lot of attention from the global technology vendors. Internationally the smart cards were around $15-20 while in India the cost came down to $5-6.