Tata Consultancy Services ( TCS ) reportedly seems set to roll out chip-based e-passports by the end of the year. According to a report in Economic Times (ET), TCS is also setting up a new command and control centre with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as well as new data centre to support the backend requirements of the project. Earlier this year, the ministry renewed its 10-year PSK deal worth over Rs 6,000 crore with TCS. This is part of the second phase of the passport project that the company bagged from the government. This passport project is said to be the country’s largest mission-critical e-governance programme till date. Here’s a ready reckoner on e-passports and the recent updates on the rollout.
What is an e-passport
At first glance, an e-passport looks just like a regular passport. However, an e-passport comes fitted with a small electronic chip, something similar to as seen on a driver's licence. The microchip stores all the information that is printed on your passport including name, date of birth, address and other details. The microchip will help immigration authourities to quickly verify details of a traveller. The e-passport has an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip and antenna embedded as an inlay in the back cover. The passport's critical information is printed on its data page as well as stored in the chip.
What is the objective of these e-passports
The move will also help to reduce the circulation of fake passports. With the issuance of e-passports, government aims to enhance the security of passports, eliminate duplication and data tampering. Embedded with an electronic chip, they will help improve the level of identity verification.
TCS to set up new data centre and PSKs
TCS is setting up a new command and control centre with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The existing passport command centre has been running from the TCS premises but in the Passport 2.0 version a single joint command centre will be setup at the MEA premises. The company also plans to refresh existing facilities (PSKs) and systems (including hardware), build new solutions for the issuance of e-passports. This includes introducing solutions like biometrics, chatbots and auto-response among others
What is the timeline for chip-based e-passports
According to report, quoting a TCS official, the ministry of external affairs is looking at a launch timeline within this year.
What will happen to the existing passports
The current passports will remain valid. The passports currently in circulation will undergo the process of getting renewed with a new chip as and when they are up for renewal.
How will the global chip crisis affect the rollout
Tej Bhatla, the head of TCS’ public sector business unit, told ET that he does not expect the global semiconductor shortage to impact the e-passports programme. “Supply chain issues are definitely impacting everything. Even for Passport Seva 2.0, we are setting up a completely new data centre and the two existing data centres will also get refreshed. So, we do have a lot of dependency on some of the hardware coming from outside the country,” he said. He, however, expects that since the e-passport project will be spread out over some time, this may help ensure that the demand is manageable.
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