Govt revamps Bill for digital academic database

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 17, 2014 03:46 hrs

The ministry of human resource and development (HRD) is likely to bring back the National Academic Depository Bill to Parliament with some key changes, primarily removing any role of private players or agents in collecting and maintaining the digital records. Instead, the ministry has proposed government funding for the project, while roping in academic institutions as well as public sector banks and post offices as facilitators, an official said.

The Bill, which was initially mooted by the United Progressive Alliance-led government, is aimed at creating a national database of academic awards in an electronic or digital format. The database can be used by students, employers as well as by the government for any sort of verification, authentication, attestation etc, whenever required. Students can also obtain duplicate records easily using this database. According to the plan, all academic institutions, school boards, the Indian Institutes of Technology or IITs, the National Institutes of Technology or NITs and polytechnics from various states will also be linked to the depository.

These institutions will also act as agents of the national depository’s administrative office and register students with themselves while linking their certificates to the depository. Registration of students will be done after verification of proof of identity. The depository will also include mapping of academic records allowing individuals to have all certificates and degrees clubbed together in a profile.

“It is an ambitious project. Such a database will help eliminate many problems at different levels. It will check instances of forgery and fake documents, while enabling online verification,” the official said.

The idea behind removing the role of private agents from the bill is to ensure that the digitisation process is done in a fair way. Also, this would enable individuals such as students without any institutional support to access the database for free or nominal charges. However, companies or employers, other agencies and organisations might have to pay a fee to utilise the database.

The bill’s earlier version had stated that students can take the services of the depository agents for a fee.

While the National Academic Depository Bill was earlier introduced by the UPA government in the Lok Sabha in 2011, it lapsed when the 15th Lok Sabha’s term ended. The earlier draft had also faced a stringent scrutiny by a parliamentary standing committee which had recommended against outsourcing digitisation to private agents.

The new bill might also have a proposal for the government to host and maintain an independent website which will display a list of authorised boards in secondary education and a list of degree or diploma awarding institutions in the country. It will make it easier for the end user to identify a fake university.

The Central Board of Secondary Education has already run a pilot project on this model and has found it successful.

The bill is expected to be reintroduced in Parliament during the ongoing session, which will end on August 14. The session might also see the HRD ministry launching other bills such as amendment in the Central Universities Act, 2009.

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