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TCS Could Launch Chip Based E-passports By 2022 End

Tuesday, 21 June 2022, 03:45 Hrs

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) could roll out chip-based e-passports by the end of 2022, a senior executive said.

TCS at the same time, is also setting up a new command and control centre with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as well as a new data centre in order to support the backend requirements of the project, Tej Bhatla, the head of its public sector business unit, said.

This is part of the second phase of the passport project TCS had bagged from the government recently.

“The ministry is looking at a launch timeline within this year and we are working towards that. Once it is implemented, the new passports will be based on chips. Those which are currently in circulation will undergo the process of getting renewed with a new chip as and when they are up for renewal,” Bhatla said.

The ongoing chip shortage worldwide has been baked into the timeline for the rollout of the e-passport, he added.

Bhatla said the new Passports Seva Kendra (PSK) under the 2.0 version of the project will have a revamped look to ensure a more convenient and faster turnaround time.

While the ministry renewed its 10-year PSK deal worth over Rs 6,000 crore with TCS in January, the government said in the budget that it would implement chip-based e-passports.

This is the country's largest mission-critical e-governance programme till date.

TCS, India's largest software services firm by revenue, manages similar solutions for India Post and IRCTC.

Bhatla said 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.

However, he expects that the e-passport project will be spread out over some time and this would ensure that demand is manageable.

“I think the demand is going to be fairly spread out and the government has already secured whatever they need for the next few months. We are in a relatively good state from an e-passport perspective,” he added.

The company processes an average of 15-20 million passports annually as part of the program.

In the next phase of the program, TCS will refresh existing facilities and systems (including hardware), build new solutions for the issuance of e-passports and improve the citizen experience with solutions like biometrics, chatbots and auto-response among others as they go through the passport application process.

This will also include giving a fresh look to PSKs and setting up new infrastructure for Post Office PSKs across the country.

“In addition to the third data centre that will be set up as part of Passport 2.0 there will also be a brand-new command and control centre that will be set up together with the Ministry of External Affairs. So, that would also need a lot of IT equipment there,” he added.

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.

Bhatla also said he expects the number of Post Office PSKs to go up from around 424 to 500 this year.