Attendance portal of GOI - the unanswered questions

Government of India has recently launched a portal for tracking and accessing the attendance details of its employees. It's drawing reviews (both positive & negative) from all over the world. What is your take on this from technical, ethical & other perspectives?

If you have not accessed it yet, you can do so by going to Its possibly one of the most modern looking websites that Govt of India has today. The live dashboards are quite corporate-ish, instead of the generally staid & pale user interfaces in GOI websites. Also it goes a long way in adding transparency to the Govt babu culture. Dashboards (9th Oct, 2014)

Basic Architecture of the Attendance System

Key features of

  1. The whole attendance system runs on the Aadhaar card databank.
  2. There would be touch pad in the offices along with Biometric scanners. Employees need to enter a key (part of Aadhaar card number) and then use his finger/iris impression to mark attendance,
  3. Anyone in the world having Internet connectivity can see the attendance data at any point in time - good to study the work pattern for Govt babus.
  4. Anyone can drill down to a particular department's particular office and go and search for a particular babu. The historical data of attendance is also maintained. Before planning for a meeting, one can check in the portal whether he is in or not.
  5. Different Govt organizations can register themselves in the portal (currently there are 149 orgs who has registered themselves)
  6. Employees can mark their attendance from any of the offices having the biometric device (currently piloted in Delhi).
  7. Apart from attendance facility, this portal would also allow you to search for any Govt employee based on partial name and department name.

The unanswered questions:

  1. Technical: This page doesn't run on SSL. How could they miss it??
  2. Tactical: There are certain Govt organizations, which should protect the identity of its employees for national security & other purposes. Proper care needs to be taken to ensure that. Found a department "Armed Force Tribunal (Aft) - MOD" in the portal, where we could see the details of all its employees. Is that desirable?
  3. Ethical: While there is debate on whether govt employee attendance details should be put up in public or not, care may be taken not to share any other personal details of the employees. The portal currently shows partial phone number & email id. What is the use of that? Can this lead to spamming and create risks for certain employees?
  4. Operational: To get his department's employees on the portal, Nodal officer has to manually enlist all the offices, employees and designations of his organization. This could have been done in a better way by centralizing the data (if available). Can this lead to typos? How would continuity be maintained in future (during transfers, retirements & new joinees)?.
  5. Connectivity: The whole system runs only on connected mode. There is no scope of offline attendance. How would it work during network failures in remote locations?
  6. Device: The system depends on the availability and proper working of the biometric devices, which can become the single point of failure. What would be the backup option in case biometric fails (which is quite common)?
  7. Aadhaar: This attendance system runs on the basis of Aadhaar databank, which has run into controversy multiple times in the past due to its lack of seriousness around security. There were rumors that the newly elected Govt might put this project in back burner. However the Govt changed its stance after the election and put its approval stamp on the project. Without much change in basic security aspects, Aadhaar seems to be on full swing now. GOI needs to be a little more serious when it comes to biometric data of its citizen, which can be used for identity theft if not managed properly. 
  8. One last point: This effort would definitely add a bit to the transparency factor of the workings of Govt babus. However people are already wondering on when would this be extended to the ministers and their personal assistants. That would really be a great initiative. When can we have that?

Any initiative of this nature would certainly draw attention from all over the world. Since this project is also dealing with personal data of it's employees, GOI should take utmost care to ensure that the security of its employees and the country is not compromised in anyway. A thorough review by people of technical competence would be really welcome before the system rolls out to all over India. Please share your thoughts on this project. Would be happy to add your contributions to the article.

Acknowledgement: This post has inputs from various people in various forums & social media platforms. Would like to have a special mention of  +Raja Mitra who has shared many of the above inputs. 

Some additional reads on Aadhaar card as published in Mainstream media:

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