Saturday, March 27, 2010

Biometrics Smart Card

The following is from a blog called "Theworldbankunveiled's Blog ... Hello world!"

The original posting was in the Uncategorized segment by theworldbankunveiled on September 9, 2009. The following is the original post.
1 – The World Bank and Transparency: A Perspective

As the author of a new book, The World Bank Unveiled: Inside the Revolutionary Struggle for Transparency, I recount my dozen years inside the institution. I examine a number of aspects of the organization that range from its culture and bureaucracy to its day-to-day activities. Among the key questions the book analyzes is the meaning of transparency inside the Bank. In fact, my experiences suggest it means different things to different internal stakeholders and that these sensibilities are often conflicting and reflect a vast array of backgrounds. For example, in recent years the Bank merged a knowledge sharing mantra into a culture that horded information and it implemented greater disclosure measures that were often viewed by external observers as rhetorical flourishes.

When he left the Bank in 2005, former President James Wolfensohn said transparency reduces corruption, reduced corruption leads to better governance and better governance increases development. Transparency, he believes, is the key. But history suggests the Bank’s management believes transparency is something that should apply to its clients and other external stakeholders. Its enthusiasm regarding the internal application of transparency seems less than robust. Consider the following:

It has a long history of reluctance toward releasing documents external observers believe are central to helping foster development.

When its staff has gone public with views that counter the Bank’s traditional orthodoxy, they have been dismissed. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and William Easterly are two prominent examples.

In 1997, as part of its Strategic Compact reorganization, the Bank began to recast itself as a “knowledge bank.” It has not been a success because the cultural instincts of the institution favor information hoarding rather than knowledge sharing. The World Bank Institute, the branch of the institution charged with implementing knowledge sharing, is a pedagogical unit that promotes fostered learning. Former Bank economist David Ellerman’s insightful paper, Helping People Help Themselves: Toward a Theory of Autonomy-Compatible Help documents how fostered learning creates client dependency which diametrically counters knowledge sharing.
The World Bank Unveiled offers numerous other examples. But much more importantly are the perspectives of others who have worked inside or outside the Bank. This blog post wants to encourage others to share their own experiences and stories …

I made a comment in response to this post as follows
Peter Burgess said, on February 2, 2010 at 7:45 pm
Dear Colleagues

I did my first World Bank assignment in 1978. Prior to this I had had 20 odd years of professional and corporate management experience. My first impressions were that the World Bank was doing important work, and doing it wrong, and in a way that was not making the best use of scarce resources for development. In subsequent years I tried to influence project design, and the whole project cycle so that it would be more effective … but met with extreme resistance. Part of my training included auditing … and when it becomes difficult to get answers, you know that there is something that is being hidden. In the case of the World Bank group there are many things being hidden, with these three of considerable importance (1) a complete failure to address the issues of corruption in all its manifestations (2) a failure to measure the performance of the projects and to take steps to improve performance; and (3) a failure to look inward at the high cost and poor performance of the World Bank as an organization, as well as the high cost/low productivity of staff.

Unless you have worked outside the relief and development sector, you cannot appreciate how poor the World Bank performance has been for several decades! There have been critics for a very long time, but rather little reform of any significance!

Peter Burgess
Community Analytics
and in due course my long time colleague in Chennai, India responded as follows:
Kris Dev said, on March 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Well said, Peter. We are partners in corruption elimination in the Transparency and Accountability Network (TrAcNet). I had written an article some time back, of which you know. But for the benefit of others, i am copying it here:

A prescription to end corruption
Unique identification of every citizen will help kill the corruption malaise in developing economies

Kris Dev,
ICT & e-Gov Consultant, Manthan Awardee for e-Inclusion & Livelihood Creation

What ails the under developed and developing nations? Reply: corruption leading to self perpetuating poverty. Reason: lack of honesty & transparency. Result: lack of accountability for sustained growth. Economy is divided between rich & poor; the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer. The poor cannot afford essentials such as food, clothing, shelter, health, education and social security. The division is so sharp between communities, while a rich family can afford to spend Euro500 per week on food items, a poor family of the same size can hardly spend Euro5 per week.

Does this mean all citizens living in a poor nation are poor? Well the answer is a ‘NO’. The wealth in a under developed/developing nation is skewed. Almost 80-90% of the wealth of the nation is in the control of say 5-10% of the population. The majority of the population hardly has access to any wealth and live in abject poverty.

One of the biggest factors is ‘Corruption.’ It is the cancer eating into the vitals of the society. It has permeated into all facets of life, affecting the poor and voiceless. Today, the common man with no money or muscle power, cannot think of getting any thing done in the developing world, without having to pay bribe.

Global institutions such as World Bank, IMF, and UN must enjoy legitimacy from their member countries and the international community. They must be responsive, with the interests of all members, especially the smaller and poorer, being taken into account. The governance of these institutions must be flexible, must respond to new challenges, national priorities and specific circumstances.

A scathing report from the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of IMF highlights the lack of transparency and accountability in IMF. The IEO measured governance along four dimensions – effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and voice – and against three standards – the Fund’s own governing documents, other international organisations, and private & public-sector corporations. The report finds accountability and voice are the weakest features of the Fund’s governance and these weaknesses entail risks to the Fund’s legitimacy, which in turn has a bearing on its effectiveness.

If this is the situation with global institutions, we can well imagine what would be the situation with national and regional institutions. No wonder they abound in corruption of all sorts and get away with it. Then, how do we get over this corruption mania? One sure way would be to plug all the leakages in the system. This cannot be done without active support of the governments and its citizens. A unique identification of every citizen is the primary requirement. With the advent of ICT tools, every citizen can be uniquely identified from birth to death using unique identification methods such as fingerprint, iris, hand vein geometry and DNA linked to their ID, name, photo, etc.

A Multi Purpose Biometric Smart Card for every individual and organisation linked to a money account and a e-Tool to link every citizen and service provider/public authority including the vertical and horizontal hierarchy of governance can be used as a single window of transactions for G2C, G2G, B2B, B2C, etc. If the transactions are thrown open, then total transparency and accountability can prevail, as envisaged in the Right to Information Act.

Healthy citizenry can be created by covering all aspects of citizens from birth to death such as health, hygiene, housing, education, employment, expenses, consumption, savings, social security, et al, based on genuine physical transactions and not ghost transactions. Thus corruption, money laundering, arms trade and terrorism can be eliminated and all round peace and prosperity can prevail as every one would feel good that no one can cheat any one and all have equitable opportunities to contribute and grow.

Originally published in 4Ps Business and Marketing Magazine – A Plan Media Publication, New Delhi, India – Special Feature – COLUMN CITIZENRY – A prescription to end corruption – Unique identification of every citizen will help kill the corruption malaise in developing economies….
The challenge that Kris highlights is about a core constraint to development ... which might be obviated to some extent by effective use of technology. Corruption is a big problem that originates with the rich and powerful and has influence at all levels of society ... but good accounting and control systems can go a long way to addressing the problem.

Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)

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